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Zodiac Circle on Ancient Coins

Prieure de Sion

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Browsing at academia.edu I find this pdf for free download: 




It's - for my opinion - very interesting. At fast - I found one coin in my "collection" with a zodiac ram at the reverse of the coin.



Marcus Iulius Severus Philippus II Caesar; Octassarion Province Bronze of the Roman Imperial period 247/249 AD; Material: AE; Diameter: 29mm; Weight: 16.80g; Mint: Antiochia ad Orontem, Syria; Reference: McAlee 1073, BMC 566; Provenance: Ex Dr. Gernot Heinrich Collection; Obverse: Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Philippus II right. The inscription reads: AVTOK K M IOVΛI ΦIΛIΠΠOC CЄB for Autokratoros Kaisaros Marcos Ioulios Philippos Sebastos (Imperator Caesar Marcus Iulius Philippus Augustus); Reverse: Turreted, veiled, and draped bust of Tyche right; above, ram leaping right, head left; Δ-Є and S-C across field. The inscription reads: ANTIOXEΩN MHTPO KOΛΩN for Antiocheon Metropoleon Kolon (Antiochia Metropolitan Colonia).
Feel free to download and watched the PDF.
Post your Ancient coins from Greek, roman or other - with zodiac symbols please!
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That coin is WAY COOL, @Prieure de Sion!

This coin depicts a zodiac circle as well. See this thread.

Faustina I, AD 138-141.
Roman AR denarius, 3.0 g, 17.1 mm.
Rome, AD 145-150.
Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
Rev: AVGVSTA, Female figure standing facing, head left, holding globe and resting left arm on zodiac circle.
Refs: RIC 366a; BMCRE 432-33; Cohen/RSC 73; RCV 4586; CRE 147.
And I've always interpreted this one as referring to the sun in Leo.
Greek Ionia, Miletos.
AE Hemiobol, 3.35 g, 18.3 mm, 12 h.
Aeschylinos, magistrate, ca. 200 BC.
Obv: Apollo Didymeus standing right, holding small stag and bow; monogram below.
Rev: Lion seated right with head turned to left, star above, monogram right, ΑIΣXΥΛΙΝΟΥ in exergue.
Refs: Deppert 941-56 var; Marcellesi 56.
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56 minutes ago, Prieure de Sion said:

other - with zodiac symbols please!

other !!


Amulet, religious
left : Celestial master Zhang 张天师 chasing away two demons.
right : The animals of the Chinese zodiac, in picture and writing, e.g. top left: the horse 午 and the snake 巳.
Material: 71mm, 50g


probably Song Dynasty
top: constellation of stars and clouds
right: Laozi with Ruyi scepter
left: Zhang Daoling, behind him a tiger (barely visible)
below: turtle, snake and crane
The animals of the Chinese zodiac, in picture and writing
Material: AE, 55.2mm, 29.8g


Edited by shanxi
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I've owned a couple of the coins in that article, most recently acquiring this Zodiac bronze of Julia Maesa.


I'm not normally a set collector but seeing all twelve Zodiac coins together in one auction at Kunker last year was compelling... that'd be an incredible and enjoyable set to build but it'd probably take another 20 years to find suitable examples of each major type. It perhaps says something about humans (or a coincidence) that we also have Twelve Caesars and Twelve Olympians.

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10 minutes ago, AncientJoe said:

I've owned a couple of the coins in that article, most recently acquiring this Zodiac bronze of Julia Maesa.


I'm not normally a set collector but seeing all twelve Zodiac coins together in one auction at Kunker last year was compelling... that'd be an incredible and enjoyable set to build but it'd probably take another 20 years to find suitable examples of each major type. It perhaps says something about humans (or a coincidence) that we also have Twelve Caesars and Twelve Olympians.

12 disciples and apostles

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Maybe that's what's wrong with the world...we should have stuck with the long hundred.

From the Wikipedia page on Duodecimal:

Languages using duodecimal number systems are uncommon. Languages in the Nigerian Middle Belt such as Janji, Gbiri-Niragu (Gure-Kahugu), Piti, and the Nimbia dialect of Gwandara;[2] and the Chepang language of Nepal[3] are known to use duodecimal numerals.

Germanic languages have special words for 11 and 12, such as eleven and twelve in English. They come from Proto-Germanic *ainlif and *twalif (meaning, respectively one left and two left), suggesting a decimal rather than duodecimal origin.[4][5] However, Old Norse used a hybrid decimal/duodecimal counting system, with its words for "one hundred and eighty" meaning 200 and "two hundred" meaning 240.[6] On British Isles, this style of counting survived well into the Middle Ages as the long hundred.

Historically, units of time in many civilizations are duodecimal. There are twelve signs of the zodiac, twelve months in a year, and the Babylonians had twelve hours in a day (although at some point this was changed to 24). Traditional Chinese calendars, clocks, and compasses are based on the twelve Earthly Branches or 24 (12×2) Solar terms. There are 12 inches in an imperial foot, 12 troy ounces in a troy pound, 12 old British pence in a shilling, 24 (12×2) hours in a day, and many other items counted by the dozen, gross (144, square of 12), or great gross (1728, cube of 12). The Romans used a fraction system based on 12, including the uncia which became both the English words ounce and inch. Pre-decimalisation, Ireland and the United Kingdom used a mixed duodecimal-vigesimal currency system (12 pence = 1 shilling, 20 shillings or 240 pence to the pound sterling or Irish pound), and Charlemagne established a monetary system that also had a mixed base of twelve and twenty, the remnants of which persist in many places.

Table of units from a base of 12
French unit
of length
English unit
of length
(Troy) unit
of weight
Roman unit
of weight
English unit
of mass
120 pied foot pound libra  
12−1 pouce inch ounce uncia slinch
12−2 ligne line 2 scruples 2 scrupula slug
12−3 point point seed siliqua

The importance of 12 has been attributed to the number of lunar cycles in a year as well as the fact that humans have 12 finger bones (phalanges) on one hand (three in each of four fingers).[7][8] It is possible to count to 12 with the thumb acting as a pointer, touching each finger bone in turn. A traditional finger counting system still in use in many regions of Asia works in this way and could help to explain the occurrence of numeral systems based on 12 and 60 besides those based on 10, 20, and 5. In this system, the one (usually right) hand counts repeatedly to 12, displaying the number of iterations on the other (usually left), until five dozens, i.e. the 60, are full.[9][10]

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Hi All,


ANTONINUS PIUS (10 Jul 138 - 7 Mar 161 CE )
ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT Year 08 (144/145 CE)
AE Drachma, 'Zodiac Series'
Size: 35 mm (max)
Weight: 19.7 g
Axis: 00:00
Broucheion Collection

OBV: Antoninus Pius laureate, draped and cuirassed bust facing right. Legend: [AVTKTAIΛAΔP]ANTω[NINOCCEBEVC]. Dotted border not visible.
REV: Zodiac Series: Zodiac wheel. Three concentric circles: the outermost consists of the Zodiac wheel with Aries at the top. The second consists of the eponymous gods of the days of the week, the planets, in counterclockwise order: Saturn, Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus. The innermost circle has a bust of Sarapis facing left. Dotted border not visible.
Refs: Emmett-1708.08; Geissen-UNLISTED; Dattari-2983; BMC-1078; SAN vol 4, no 3 (1972/73); Staffieri "Alexandria In Nummis" #145.
Provenance: This coin is ex @PeteB (thanks!) from a NY coin show in 1994.

Note: Several sections chiseled away in antiquity, possibly to make a medal out of the inner circle of zodiacal symbols with diameter ~20 mm?

- Broucheion

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Interesting. Do you mean the bull on the following Philip II and the ram on the T-Bone are zodiac animals too ?


Philippe II (07 ou 08/247-09/249) - Tetrassarion de l'atelier de Cyrrhus (Syrie) - ca 247/249 CE
AYTOK K M IOYΛI ΦIΛIΠΠOC CЄB, Buste lauré, drapé et cuirassé à droite, vu par l'arrière
ΔIOC KATЄBATOY / KYPHCTΩN, Zeus assis dans un temple hexastyle, tenant un foudre sans la main droite et un sceptre dans la gauche, à ses pieds un aigle. Au dessus du fronton du temple, un taureau bondissant à droite.

28 mm - 16,43 g - 12 h
Ref : Butcher # 21c, RPC vol VIII # ID 7844



Trebonianus Gallus, AE 8 Assaria - SYRIA, Seleucis and Pieria. Antioch.
ΑΥΤΟΚ Κ Γ ΟΥΙΒ ΤΡƐΒ ΓΑΛΛΟϹ ϹƐΒ, Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right seen from rear
ΑΝΤΙΟΧƐΩΝ ΜΗΤΡΟ ΚΟΛΩΝ, , Portable shrine with four columns enclosing statue of Tyche seated, facing, with river god (Orontes) facing, at her feet ; above temple, ram advancing right, head left ; Δ Ɛ across field above temple, SC at exergue ; and carry-bars at the base of the shrine
21.08 g - 30mm - 6h)
Ref : RPC vol IX # 1851, Sear # 4350, McAlee 1181; SNG Copenhagen 292 (same rev. die).


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@Qcumbor, it's my understanding that the ram on these coins is definitely intended to be seen as a zodiac animal. See the boldfaced portion of the footnote below.

Philip I AE Octassarion (8 Assaria), Second Issue, AD 247-249, Syria, Seleucis & Pieria, Antioch Mint. Obv. Radiate, draped & cuirassed bust right, ΑΥΤΟΚ Κ Μ ΙΟΥΛΙ ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟϹ ϹƐΒ / Rev. Turreted and draped bust of Tyche right; above, ram leaping right with head turned back left; star below bust; ΑΝΤΙΟΧƐΩΝ - ΜΗΤΡΟ ΚΟΛΩΝ around; Δ – Ɛ [Delta – Epsilon] across upper fields; S - C across lower fields. 30 mm., 15.68 g. McAlee 990 (ill. p. 345) [Richard McAlee, The Coins of Roman Antioch (2007)]; RPC VIII Online (unassigned, ID 7493) (see https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/type/7493); BMC 20 Syria 526 [Warwick Wroth, A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Vol. 20, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Syria (London, 1899) at p. 215]. Purchased from Kenneth W. Dorney, Feb. 2022.*


*Second Issue, Star below Tyche. Octassarion: See McAlee at p. 327:

“The aes coinage of Philip I and his family can be divided into two issues. The first issue, struck from 244 to c.247, is characterized by an obverse legend for Philip I which includes ‘MA.IOVΛ.’ (or, rarely, ‘MA. IOVΛI.’), a reverse legend ending ‘ΚΟΛΩ.’, and the absence of a star below the bust of Tyche on the largest denomination. The second issue, struck from c. 247 to 249, is characterized by an obverse legend for Philip I which includes ‘M. IOVΛI.’, a reverse legend ending ‘ΚΟΛΩΝ.’, and the presence of a star below the bust of Tyche on the largest denomination. The coins of the first issue are larger and heavier than those of the second issue, and are not as common as those of the second issue. It is apparent that Philip reformed the bronze coinage by reducing its weight, and that the mint marked the reformed coins with a star below the bust of Tyche.

The large denomination (eight assaria) consistently employs a bust of Tyche as the reverse type. . . . A scarce medium denomination (four assaria) was struck with reverse Apollo standing, and a very rare type with reverse Tyche standing. Both reverse types appear on the medium denomination aes of later emperors.”

Ram: See Butcher, Kevin, Coinage in Roman Syria: 64 BC-AD 253 (PhD Thesis, University of London, 1991) (available at https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10121055/1/Butcher_10121055_thesis.pdf) at p. 369:

“The ram which appears as a type or subsidiary device on Antiochene coinage is thought to represent Aries, perhaps the zodiacal sign under which the city was founded (or subsequently refounded). On the reverses of civic bronzes it is usually accompanied by a star, or a star and crescent, strongly suggesting that it is indeed an astral symbol. Although the type is not known on Antiochene coinage before the reign of Augustus, this does not necessarily mean that it is late in date; the Tyche of Antioch, set up in the early third century BC, does not occur on coins until the first century BC.”

See also McAlee at p. 8: “Another symbol seen on both silver and bronze coins, and as a primary type on the reverse of some civic coins, is a ram, usually depicted as a leaping or running figure looking backwards. It is likely that the ram is a zodiacal symbol (Aries), perhaps referring to the time of year at which the city was founded.”

[Remainder of footnote omitted.]

Here's my one other Zodiac coin:

Antoninus Pius AE Drachm, Zodiac Series, Sun in Leo (day house), Year 8 (144-145 AD), Alexandria, Egypt Mint. Obv. Laureate head right, ΑYΤ Κ Τ ΑΙΛ ΑΔΡ ΑΝΤѠΝƐΙΝΟϹ ϹƐ-Β ƐYϹ (legend begins at 8:00) / Rev. Lion springing right; above to left, bust of Helios, radiate and draped; above to right, 8-pointed star; L H (Year 8 ) below.  RPC IV.4 Online 13547 (temp.) (see https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/4/13547 ); Emmett 1530.8 (ill. p. 74A); BMC 16 Alexandria 1084 at p. 127 (ill. Pl. 12); Milne 1813-1815 at p. 44 (No. 1815 has same obv. legend break as this coin, i.e., ϹƐ-Β ƐVϹ); Dattari (Savio) 2968; K&G 35.278 (ill. p. 173); Köln (Geissen) 1495.  Ex. Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger, Auction 428, Lot 555, 28 Apr. 2021; ex. Heidelberger Münzhandlung Herbert Grün e.K., Auction 79, Lot 1284, 10 Nov. 2020.* 33 mm., 20.95 g.


*See Classical Numismatic Group, Triton XXI Catalog (“The Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection of the Coins of Roman Alexandria,” Jan 9. 2018), Lot 124, p. 68 (available at https://www.cngcoins.com/Coin.aspx?CoinID=349280):
“The Great Sothic Cycle was a calendrical cycle based on the heliacal rising in July of the star Sirius (known to the Greeks as Sothis) and lasting approximately 1460 years. According to ancient Egyptian mythology, in a Golden Age, the beginning of the flooding of the Nile coincided exactly with the rising of Sirius, which was reckoned as the New Year. Only once every 1460 years did Sirius rise at exactly the same time. Thus, the coincidence of this along with the concurrent beginning of the flooding of the Nile gave the event major cosmological significance by heralding not just the beginning of a new year, but the beginning of a new eon. This event also was thought to herald the appearance of the phoenix, a mythological bird which was reborn every 500 to 1000 years out of its own ashes. According to one version of the myth, each new phoenix embalmed its old ashes in an egg of myrrh, which it then deposited in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis. So important was the advent of the new Great Sothic Cycle, both to the realignment of the heavens and its signaling of the annual flooding of the Nile, that the Egyptians celebrated it in a five-day festival, which emphasized the important cosmological significance.

In the third year of the reign of Antoninus Pius (AD 139/40), a new Great Sothic Cycle began. To mark this event, the mint of Alexandria struck an extensive series of coinage, especially in large bronze drachms, each related in some astrological way to the reordering of the heavens during the advent of the new Great Sothic Cycle. This celebration would continue throughout Pius’ reign, with an immense output of coinage during the eighth year of his reign in Egypt, which included this coin type, part of the Zodiac series.” 

I have seen no explanation of why it took five years to issue this series after the beginning of the new Cycle. It should be noted that the Zodiac series is based not on the ancient Egyptian “Decan” system of 36 star groups (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decan), but on the 12 Greek (originally Babylonian) signs, and depicts associated Greco-Roman deities -- although the additional “Zodiac Wheel” coin (see Triton XXI catalog, Lot 124) depicts Isis and Serapis at the center of the reverse.

In total, according to Emmett, there are 16 basic drachm types in the Antoninus Pius Zodiac Series, all issued in Year 8 of his reign, listed and depicted in Emmett at p. 74A: Ares (Mars) in Aries [ram] (Emmett 1461.8), Aphrodite (Venus) in Taurus [bull] (E. 1450.8), Hermes (Mercury) in Gemini [with the twins represented by Herakles and Apollo rather than the Dioscuri] (E.1576.8), Selene (Moon) in Cancer [crab] (E.1681.8), Helios (Sun) in Leo [this coin] (E.1530.8), Hermes (Mercury) in Virgo [Demeter] (E.1575.8), Aphrodite (Venus) in Libra [female holding scales] (E.1452.8), Ares (Mars) in Scorpio [scorpion] (E.1460.8), Zeus (Jupiter) in Sagittarius [centaur as archer] (E.1693.8), Kronos (Saturn) in Capricorn [capricorn] (E.1598.8), Kronos (Saturn) in Aquarius [youth swimming with amphora] (E.1451.8), and Zeus (Jupiter) in Pisces [two fish] (E.1692.8). There are four additional coins variously depicting Helios and Selene, Serapis and Isis, or Serapis by himself in the center, surrounded by either one circular band showing the Zodiac, or two bands showing respectively the Zodiac and the five planets together with the Sun and Moon (Emmett 1705-1708). 

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I have 2 coins with capricorns but a coin I am glad for getting is this not very impressive pseudo autonomous from Mopsus. The description found for similar examples (the other variety with different reverse legend) indicates that the crab is the zodiac sign of Cancer, which is good for me since my birthday is on the 13th of July.
Although it went under the radar, it is the 2nd known example and I have submitted it to RPC also.



CILICIA. Mopsus. Pseudo-autonomous. Time of Antonines. 13 mm, 2,4 g. ΜΟΨƐ, crab surmounted by star (Zodiac sign of Cancer / Ɛ[Τ?] ΛϹ, altar on stand.  RPC IV.3, 17186 (temporary)

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