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Athena and the Serpent

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Athena (Latin, Minerva) is one of the most powerful goddesses of the Greco-Roman pantheon. A goddess of war, wisdom, and women, she was important enough to be the patroness of Athens and a member of the Roman Capitoline Triad: Minerva, Jupiter, and Juno.


The Capitoline Triad at the Rodolfo Lanciani Archaeological Museum. Athena appears at the far left, with her owl at her feet. Image used with permission.[1]

On ancient coins, Athena is pictured with some of her most prominent identifying attributes: a helmet (either Corinthian or Attic depending on the time period and issuing authority), her aegis, a snake, an owl, and her spear and shield.[2]

The helmet refers to her role as the goddess of war; specifically pertaining to fighting for law and order - as opposed to Ares/Mars' role as the god of brutal, violent war.


Troas, Sigeion, c. 335 BC.
Greek Æ 12.2 mm, 2.37 g, 5 h.
Obv: Head of Athena facing slightly right, wearing triple crested helmet and necklace.
Rev: ΣΙΓΕ, owl standing right, head facing; crescent to left.
Refs: BMC 17.86,7-10; SNG von Aulock 7637; SNG Ashmolean 1214–6; SNG Copenhagen 496-8; Sear 4145.

This balanced approach is embodied by both the owl and snake: the owl representing wisdom and the snake representing prudence. Snakes have a bad reputation within a Christian context, but their ancient meaning was one of fertility, healing, and rebirth.[3] Snakes were, for example, important attributes of the healing gods Asklepios, Hygieia, and Glykon. I have previously written about this elsewhere.

On coins and other ancient iconography, Athena may appear with a snake alongside her.


Nero, AD 54-68.
Roman provincial Æ 17 mm, 6.4 g.
Pamphylia, Side, c. AD 55.
Obv: ΝЄΡ
Ν ΚΑΙϹΑΡ, laureate and draped bust, right.
Rev: ϹΙΔΗΤ, Athena advancing left, holding spear over shoulder and shield, serpent alongside her; pomegranate upper left field.
Refs: RPC I, 3401; BMC 19.152,75; Mionnet Suppl. 7, p. 66,188; Sear GIC, 608; SNG France 784.


Athena Varvakeion, small Roman replica of the Athena Parthenos by Phidias. Found in Athens near the Varvakeion school, hence the name. First half of the 3rd c. AD. Used by permission.[4] CC BY-SA 4.0

More commonly, Athena appears wearing a snake-fringed aegis.


Domitian, AD 81-96.
Roman AR denarius, 3.44 g, 17.2 mm, 7 h.
Rome, AD 91.
Obv: IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM P M TR XI (error; should read TR P XI), laureate head, right.
Rev: IMP XXI COS XV CENS P P P, Minerva advancing right, brandishing a javelin and holding a shield.
Refs: RIC 156; RIC² 724; BMCRE p. 336, note; Cohen 269; RCV –.


Faustina II, AD 147-175.
Roman provincial Æ assarion, 6.04 g, 19.2 mm, 1 h.
Koinon of Thessaly, Larissa, AD 158-165.
Obv: ΦΑVϹΤЄΙΝΑ ϹЄΒΑϹΤΗ; bare-headed and draped bust of Faustina II, right.
Ν; Athena Itonia in snake-adorned aegis, striding right, brandishing spear and holding shield.
Refs: RPC IV.1 4570 (temporary); Rogers 98a, SNG Cop 349; SNG Evelpidis 1685; BCD Thessaly II 966.1 & 966.2.
Notes: Ex-BCD collection. Issued in three denominations: tetrassarion (RPC 4569), diassarion (RPC 4568), and assarion (such as this coin).

These images demonstrate the goddess's snake-fringed aegis, front and back, on pottery in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, respectively:


Let's see your coins with Athena and snakes!



1. "File:Arte Romana, Triade Capitolina, 160-180 CE." Wikipedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arte_romana,_triade_capitolina,_160-180_dc_(guidonia_montecelio,_museo_civico_archeologico)_01.jpg.

2. Sear, David R., Roman Coins and their Values, vol. 2, The Accession of Nerva to the Overthrow of the Severan Dynasty, A.D. 96 -A.D. 235. London, 2002, p. 32. See also Hall, James. 1974. Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art. New York, pp. 209-210, pp. 285-286.

3. "Athena: Warrior Goddess." Coins of the Greek and Roman World, Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University, https://libmedia.willamette.edu/hfma/omeka/exhibits/show/coinsofthegreekandromanworld/iconography/godsandgoddessses/athenawarriorgoddess.

4. "Athena." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 July 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athena#/media/File:Statuette_of_Athena_(3rd_cent._A.D.)_in_the_National_Archaeological_Museum_of_Athens_on_14_April_2018_(cropped).jpg.

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Some nice coins and interesting write-up !!


Here is Athena with a Snake-Aegis



Asia Minor, Phrygia
Pseudo-autonomous issue
Time of Hadrian, AD 117-138
Obv: Helmeted bust of Athena right, wearing aegis.
Rev: ΤΡΑΙΑΝΟΠΟΛΙΤΩΝ, Facing statue of Artemis Ephesia
AE, 16mm, 3.11g
Ref.: RPC III 2479; Lindgren I 1049.

Edited by shanxi
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@Roman Collector..Nice write up Thanks and cool looking coins..

My first ever Greek coin was of Athena...ATHENA.jpg.c7ee72ce4bf37114cb15f20b57e1f66c.jpg

Mysia, Pergamon . Circa 2nd Century BC. AE 18mm (5.31 gm).
Obv.: Head of Athena right, wearing Corinthian Egret helmet.
Rev.: ΑΘΗΝΑΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ (Athénas Nicéphore), trophy, consisting of crested helmet and cuirass with arms below; monogram to the right.
SNG von Aulock 1374; SNG France 1884. VF.

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NSK in the national archaeological museum Athens

Below, Athena never was a 20th century beauty, but the last 2 she is anything but! And a coiled snake to boot  on the first issue by Xenocles. Note the snake doesn't have 2 tails, just a die crack.  Which snake do you think it is?  My best Athena  is the "Lucullan" pseudo-Athenian NewStyle c 86-84 BC  and look at those beautiful horse protomes too...like those of earlier Heraklea ad Lamon stenaphophores of the Great Transformation. c 140's BC




Thompson 1 Black.png



My Sulla II.jpg

Edited by NewStyleKing
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Nice coins @Roman Collector

One of my rarest with the snake-fringed aegis.


Achaea. Cyclades, Melos. Demos / Palladium AE24

Obv: DHMOC / Bearded bust of Demos r.
Rev: ΜΗΛΙΩΝ / Statue of Pallas Athena(Palladium) standing facing head r., holding spear aloft in right hand, preparing to strike, circular shield on left arm.
24mm., 12.2g.
Time of Nerva.
RPC Volume: III №: 404A


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Nice coins and write-up, Roman Collector ... oh, and then some great Athena examples from the rest of the coin-gang (cool thread)


I am also a big fan of Athena ... I had several sweet coins in my ol' collection (wanna see a bunch of 'em?)

Calabria Tarentum AR Drachm.jpg

Campania Teanum Sidicinum.jpg



Ionia Klazomenai.jpg

Lucania Thourioi Skylla and Bull AR Nomos.jpg

Lucania Velia AR Nomos.jpg


Pontos Amisos again.jpg

Pontos amisos number two.jpg

Pontos Amisos Version three.jpg



Sinope Medusa.jpg

Thessaly Pharsalos AR Drachm Cavalryman.jpg

Thessaly Pharsalos.jpg

Troas Sigeion.jpg


Roman Collector => thanks for creating the thread (it felt awesome to unload all of those cool examples ... I hope you guys likes them?)

I will try to circle-back later and identify the coins (however, my dog is hounding me to take him for a walk ... and he has me very well-trained, so there's that)




Edited by Steve
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