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

Music on Ancient Coins

Augustus, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D.

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This type commemorates the naval victory at Actium in which Octavian won a decisive victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra on 2 September 31 B.C. Augustus paid special honors to Apollo Actius, whose temple at Actium commanded a view of the bay where the combat took place. After his victory, he enlarged both this sanctuary and the town of Actium. Across the straight from Actium, on the site of his campsite prior to the naval engagement, Octavian founded the city of Nicopolis. At Nicopolis, to honor his victory, he erected a war memorial and established games known as Actia or Ludi Actiaci. The Actiaca Aera was established as the new local era with dates computed from the time of the battle.
SH55904. Silver denarius, RIC I 180; Lyon 37; RSC 165; BMCRE 478 - 479; BMCRR Gaul 194 - 195; BN 1418 - 1419, VF, lightly toned, weight 3.702 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 45o, Lugdunum (Lyon, France) mint, 11 B.C.; obverse AVGVSTVS DIVI F, bare head right; reverse Apollo Citharoedus of Actium standing facing, wearing long drapery, head left, plectrum in right, lyre in left, IMP - XII across field, ACT in exergue; ex KŁnker FPL 115 (June 1995), lot 49; ex Triton XI (Jan 2008), lot 844; SOLD


Tenedos, Islands off Troas, c. 450 - 387 B.C.

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Tenedos is mentioned in both the Iliad and the Aeneid, in the latter as the island where the Greeks hid their fleet near the end of the Trojan War in order to trick the Trojans into believing the war was over and into taking the Trojan Horse within their city walls. The island was important throughout classical antiquity despite its small size due to its strategic location at the entrance of the Dardanelles. In the following centuries, the island came under the control of a succession of regional powers, including the Persian Empire, the Delian League, Alexander the Great, the Kingdom of Pergamon, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Republic of Venice. As a result of the War of Chioggia (1381) between Genoa and Venice the entire population was evacuated and the town was demolished. The Ottoman Empire established control over the deserted island in 1455. During Ottoman rule, it was resettled by both Greeks and Turks. In 1807, the island was temporarily invaded by the Russians. During this invasion, the town was burnt down and many Turkish residents left the island.Map of Troas
SH34867. Silver drachm, SNG MŁnchen 347, SNG Cop 513, VF, weight 3.465 g, maximum diameter 16.3 mm, die axis 0o, Tenedos (Bozcaada, Turkey) mint, c. 450 - 387 B.C.; obverse janiform head of a diademed female left and laureate male right; reverse TE−NE−∆I−ON, labrys, grape bunch and lyre flanking handle, all within incuse square; some horn silver and lamination defects; rare; SOLD


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

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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
SH89501. Silver denarius, Crawford 443/1, Sydenham 1006, RSC I 49, Sear CRI 9, BMCRR Gaul 27, Russo RBW 1557, SRCV I 1399, F, toned, bankers marks, weight 3.892 g, maximum diameter 18.5 mm, die axis 0o, 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); from the Errett Bishop Collection; SOLD


Octavian, Imperator and Consul, 32 - 31 B.C.

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Mercury was the inventor of the lyre and the protector of commerce. This may refer to the restoration of commerce to Italy after the battle of Naulochus. -- Roman Silver Coins, Vol. I, The Republic to Augustus by H.A. Seaby

In 31 B.C., Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian was Roman Consul for the third time. His partner was Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, who replaced Mark Antony.
RS77373. Silver denarius, RIC I 257, RSC I Augustus 61, Hunter I 251, BMCRE I 596, SRCV I 1550, gVF, banker's marks, some light scratches and marks, weight 3.708 g, maximum diameter 19.1 mm, die axis 90o, uncertain Italian (Rome or Brundisium?) mint, 32 - 31 B.C.; obverse bare head of Octavian right; reverse Mercury seated right on rock, playing lyre, petasos around neck, CAESAR - DIVI F divided across field; Sincona AG, auction 10 (27 May 2013), lot 240; SOLD


Roman Republic, Q. Pomponius Musa, c. 66 B.C., Eroto, the Muse of Erotic Poetry on Reverse

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The reverse is a punning reference to the name of the moneyer. He struck coins for each of the nine muses, and Hercules, as their leader, presumably modeled after a group of statues. Each of the muses is indicated by a different obverse symbol. Eroto was not the "Muse of Pornography." She was rather the inspiration of poets such as Ovid. His poetry has literary value, but he was banished by Augustus, partly because of his smutty poetry, but also because of his adultery with the Emperor's daughter Julia. In Victorian England, this type was attributed to Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance. They assigned the tortoise symbol to Terpsichore. They assigned the flower stalk found on this coin to both Eroto and to Terpsichore, depending on the reverse. Under this scheme only the Muse of Dance had two obverse symbols and only Eroto shared her symbol with another muse. Seven of the muses were about equally distributed, but Eroto was considerably rarer, and Terpsichore about twice as common as any other Muse. Victorian sensibilities about sex may have allowed numismatists to decide that Erotic Poetry should be very, very rare. By comparison, the Romans saw Eroto as "just another Muse." Her coins should be about as common as the others. Today we are convinced each of the nine obverse symbols represents only one muse.
SH16472. Silver denarius, Sydenham 820a, RSC I Pomponia 17a, Crawford 410/7b, SRCV I 358, gVF, beautifully toned with iridescent blues, slightly flat in centers, weight 3.810 g, maximum diameter 18.7 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 66 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, flower stalk behind; reverse Q POMPONI MVSA, Eroto, the Muse of Erotic Poetry (previously described as Terpsichore), standing right, plectrum in right hand, lyre in left hand; ex Dr. Charles L. Ruby collection, ex CNG; SOLD


Kingdom of Thrace, Lysimachos, 305 - 281 B.C., Portrait of Alexander the Great

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Lysimachos captured Ephesus c. 295 B.C. and renamed it Arsinoe in honor of his wife. Thompson noted, "Some staters and tetradrachms were struck but the mint's chief output was drachms."
SH70833. Silver drachm, Thompson 174, MŁller 355, VF, light red-gold toning on obverse, weight 4.179 g, maximum diameter 18.7 mm, die axis 270o, Ephesos mint, c. 294 - 287 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Alexander the Great wearing the horn of Ammon; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΛYΣIMAXOY, Athena enthroned left, Nike crowning name in right, rests left arm on round shield behind, kithara inner left, A on throne; ex CNG Auctions 288 (Oct 2012), lot 106; SOLD


Octavian, Triumvir and Imperator, Augustus 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D.

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Mercury was the inventor of the lyre and the protector of commerce. This may refer to the restoration of commerce to Italy after the battle of Naulochus. -- Roman Silver Coins, Vol. I, The Republic to Augustus by H.A. Seaby
SH16772. Silver denarius, RIC I 257, RSC I Augustus 61, Hunter I 251, BMCRE I 596, BnF I 75, SRCV I 1550, VF, banker's mark, weight 3.742 g, maximum diameter 18.8 mm, die axis 90o, uncertain Italian (Rome or Brundisium?) mint, 32 - 31 B.C.; obverse bare head of Octavian right; reverse Mercury seated right on rock, playing lyre, petasos around neck, CAESAR - DIVI F divided across field; SOLD


Chalkidian League, Macedonia, 432 - 348 B.C.

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In 432 B.C. Olynthos broke away from Athens and, with several other cities, formed the Chalkidian league. In 393, Amyntas III of Macedonia temporally transferred territory to Olynthos when he was driven out of Macedonia by Illyrians. When he was restored and the league did not return his lands, he appealed to Sparta. Akanthos and Apollonia, also appealed to Sparta, claiming league membership was not voluntary but enforced at the point of a sword. After a long war, in 379 these cities were made "autonomous" subject allies of Sparta. Weakened by the division, the league was destroyed by Philip II of Macedon in 348 B.C.
SH58584. Silver tetrobol, SNG ANS 517; SNG Cop 238; BMC Macedonia p. 68, 15; SGCV I 1425, Choice VF, weight 2.414 g, maximum diameter 14.0 mm, die axis 90o, Olynthos mint, c. 430 - 420 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo left, ∆ behind; reverse XAΛKI∆EΩN, kithara, squared legend around, all within a linear square border inside a shallow square incuse; ex Ralph Demarco; scarce; SOLD


Augustus, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D.

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This type commemorates the naval victory at Actium in which Octavian won a decisive victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra on 2 September 31 B.C. Augustus paid special honors to Apollo Actius, whose temple at Actium commanded a view of the bay where the combat took place. After his victory, he enlarged both this sanctuary and the town of Actium. Across the straight from Actium, on the site of his campsite prior to the naval engagement, Octavian founded the city of Nicopolis. At Nicopolis, to honor his victory, he erected a war memorial and established games known as Actia or Ludi Actiaci. The Actiaca Aera was established as the new local era with dates computed from the time of the battle.
SH16136. Silver denarius, BnF I 1396, RIC I 171a, RSC I 144, BMCRE I 461, Hunter I 201, SRCV I 1611, EF, weight 3.773 g, maximum diameter 18.0 mm, die axis 270o, Lugdunum (Lyon, France) mint, 15 - 13 B.C.; obverse AVGVSTVS DIVI F, bare head right; reverse IMP X / ACT, Apollo standing left holding plectrum and lyre; high relief portrait, lustrous with light rose toning; SOLD


Kyzikos, Mysia, 5th - 4th Century B.C.

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The kithara (cithara) was an ancient stringed musical instrument resembling the lyre. The lyre was a simpler folk-instrument with two strings and tortoise shell body. The kithara had seven strings and a flat back. The kithara is a symbol of Apollo and he is credited with inventing it. Its true origins were likely Asiatic.. The kithara was primarily used by professional musicians, called kitharodes. In modern Greek, the word kithara has come to mean "guitar."
SH70830. Electrum hekte, Hurter-Liewald II 181; cf. Von Fritze I 181 (stater); SNG BnF 325 (1/12 Stater), F, weight 2.519 g, maximum diameter 10.8 mm, die axis 0o, Kyzikos (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, 5th - 4th century B.C.; obverse Kithara, tunny right below; reverse quadripartite mill-sail incuse square; ex CNG Auctions 287 lot 106; very rare; SOLD




  




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