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Demeter/Ceres and her Poppies -- Let's See your Poppies!


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Demeter (Roman Ceres) is first and foremost a goddess of grain.[1] It is unsurprising, therefore, that grain ears are depicted on almost all coins depicting the goddess. However, Demeter is not infrequently depicted holding poppies along with the ears of grain, and sometimes even holding poppies alone. Why the poppy?

The poppy is a flower commonly found growing amongst the grain of the wheat-fields.

Red Poppy Flowers In Wheat Field by Chris Sattlberger
Red Poppy Flowers in Wheat Field, photo by Chris Sattlberger.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the poppy became incorporated in the myths and iconography of Demeter. In Greek mythology, the gods gave Demeter a poppy to help her sleep after her daughter Persephone was abducted. Afterwards, poppies sprang from Demeter's footsteps. She also transformed her mortal lover, Mecon, into the sacred flower.[2] The poppy was regarded as sacred to Demeter, and was worn by her priestesses.[3] See, for example, the following ancient sources:
 

  • Callimachus, Hymn 6 to Demeter 42 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet c. 3rd B.C.):

    "Nikippe, whom the city had appointed to be her [Demeter's] public priestess, and in her hand she grasped her fillets and her poppy, and from her shoulder hung her key [the temple key of the priestess]."

     
  • Virgil, Georgics 1. 208 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic c. 1st B.C.):

    "When the Balance [Libra] makes the hours of daytime and sleep equal [in autumn], and now parts the world in twain . . . then is the time to hide in the ground your crop of flax and the poppy of Ceres [Demeter]."


Here are some coins in my collection, including two recent acquisitions, depicting Demeter or Ceres holding poppies along with grain ears.

1000268504_FaustinaJrBlaundusVossen.jpg.92cdeb312a17d68b897ef1004c819159.jpg
Faustina II, 147-175 CE.
Roman provincial Æ 20.1 mm, 4.91 g, 6 h.
Lydia, Blaundus, c. 161-175 CE.
Obv: ·I·ΑVϹΤЄΙΝΑ ϹЄΒΑϹΤΗ, bare-headed and draped bust of Faustina II, right.
Rev: ΒΛΑVΝΔЄΩΝ, Demeter, veiled and wearing long chiton and peplos, standing left, holding two ears of corn and poppy in right hand and long torch in left.
Refs: RPC IV.2, 1189 (temp); BMC 22.53,78; SNG Cop 93; SNG Munich 92; Lindgren I, 659.

835531942_FaustinaJrMaeoniaDemeter.jpg.56aebe93356b956043a15eb1cd51c2f8.jpg
Faustina II, 147-175 CE.
Roman provincial Æ 21.5 mm, 6.32 g, 6 h.
Lydia, Maeonia; Magistrate Diodorus, 147-161 CE.
Obv: ·I·ΑYϹΤЄΙΝΑ ϹЄΒΑϹΤΗ, bare-headed and draped bust of Faustina II, right.
Rev: ЄΠΙ ΔΙOΔΩΡOΥ ΜΑΙOΝΩΝ, Demeter, veiled and wearing long chiton, standing left, holding two ears of corn and poppy in right hand and long torch in left.
Refs: RPC IV.2, 10674 (temp); SNG Leypold 1070; GRPCL Maionia 106.

1862304877_FaustinaJrCERESSCseatedcornearsandpoppysestertius.jpg.136c6e687fc0eff7e9b1743403f627ab.jpg
Faustina II, AD 147-175.
Roman orichalcum sestertius, 28.83 g, 32.5 mm, 12 h.
Rome, AD 162-164.
Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, draped bust, right, wearing two strands of pearls (Beckmann Type 7 hairstyle).
Rev: CERES S C, Ceres seated left on cista, holding corn-ears and poppy in raised right hand and short, transverse torch in left hand.
Refs: RIC 1623; BMC 895n.; Cohen 39; MIR 2-6/10b; RCV –.

And this interesting provincial doesn't depict Demeter herself, but has every attribute of hers imaginable: grain ears, poppies, a flaming torch, and a serpent.

467931219_FaustinaJrNicomediatorchandserpent.jpg.2668d473876107df1b3b3ac407c9707f.jpg
Faustina II, AD 147-175.
Roman provincial Æ 20.1 mm, 5.09 gm, 12 h.
Bithynia, Nicomedia, c. AD 148-150.
Obv: ΦΑVСΤΕΙΝΑ ΝΕΑ СΕΒΑ, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
Rev: ΝΕΩΚΟΡOV ΝΙΚΟΜΗΔEI, lighted torch entwined by serpent, surmounted by two ears of corn and decorated with two poppies.
Refs: RPC IV, 6091,(temporary); RG 107, pl. XCI 24; Lindgren 166 (this coin).

Let's see your coins that feature poppies!

And here's some Nina Simone to start your day. It's a powerful song about the opioid problem.


1. "DEMETER GODDESS OF AGRICULTURE, GRAIN, AND BREAD." Theoi.com, www.theoi.com/Olympios/DemeterGoddess.html.

2. Chatfield, Stephanie. "Poppies: Sleep, Death, Remembrance." Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood, 22 Apr. 2019, preraphaelitesisterhood.com/poppies-sleep-death-remembrance/.

3. "DEMETER ESTATE & ATTRIBUTES." Theoi.com, www.theoi.com/Olympios/DemeterTreasures.html.

Edited by Roman Collector
Clarity
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Nice topic. Here is one of mine:

 

normal_Gordianus_III_6_0.jpg.1f03d6f4e8ca83ec3731a2f67d676c00.jpg

Gordianus III
Moesia Inferior, Odessos
Æ Pentassarion
Obv.: AYT K M ANTΩNIOC ΓΟΡΔΙΑΝΟC, Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Gordian left and draped bust of Darzalas with cornucopia right, vis-à-vis.
Rev: OΔΗCCEITΩN, Demeter, standing l., holding poppy and corn-ear in extended r. hand and leaning with l. hand on torch. Inverted E in r. field
AE, 12.57g, 27x27.5mm
Ref.: Varbanov 4481

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I have only one coin with poppy...

 

 

image.jpeg.903d610a78695f959b4985aef3883d82.jpeg

Publius Aelius Hadrianus as Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus
Sestertius of the Roman Imperial Period 119/120 AD; Material: AE; Diameter: 34mm; Weight: 26.90g; Mint: Rome; Reference: RIC II, Part 3 (second edition) Hadrian 233; Obverse: Bust of Hadrian, laureate, bare chest, traces of drapery on far shoulder usually visible, right. The Inscription reads: IMP CAESAR TRAIANVS HADRIANVS AVG for Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus; Reverse: Annona standing left, holding corn ears and cornucopia; at feet to left, modius, corn ears, and poppy; behind right, prow of ship. The Inscription reads: PONT MAX TR POT COS III / ANNONA AVG (in exergue) / S C (in field) for Pontifex Maximus, Tribunicia Potestate, Consul Tertium. Annona Augusti. Senatus Consultum (High priest, holder of tribunician power, consul for the third time. Imperial grain supply. Decree of the senate).

 

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Great. I have only 1 coin with a generic poppy reverse. 

image.png.af541a006211cde5dac69aae3f6a5b74.png

Antoninus Pius ( 138-161) AR denarius Rome, 141-143
ANTONINVS AVG PIVS PP TR P COS III - laureate head right
Rev: ANNONA AVG, modius with four grain ears and a poppy.
RIC 62
2,56 g, 18 mm

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Given  how  important Demeter was in Sicily, the then grain heartland of much of the region, she rarely appears. Arethusa outcompeted her!

However, here is an unusual Demeter for a Syracuse coin, wearing a poppyhead in her wreath.

SICILY, Syracuse, ~405BC). Tetradrachm (17.45 g)

Tudeer 47g, this coin, signed by the master engravers Euth... and Phrygillos, about 405.
AR 17.38 g. Nude Eros, with spread wings, driving fast quadriga r.; he holds reins with both hands and is crowned by Nike flying l.;
in the exergue, signature EU and Scylla r., trident over l. shoulder, trying to catch with her outstretched r. hand a fish in front of
her. Rev.  Head of Demeter l., hair rolled up in a wreath composed by corn ears, oak leaves and poppyhead; she
wears a double-hook earring and a plain necklace with a pendant in form of a small vase; below signature.
four dolphins around.
Tudeer, 36, 47g (this specimen). Giesecke, SN pl. 13, 10 (this specimen). Kraay-Hirmer pl. 37, 100 (these dies). Rizzo pl. 43, 12 (these dies).
 

 

 

2928070-1654606578_orig.jpg

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Great coins my man!

No Fausty poppies here. But this gnarly looking Brute of a coin (which details looks 1000x better in hand) features Chrysoroas chilaxing with his poppy:

Screenshot_20220413-120432_PicCollage-removebg-preview.png.7594e5805d6d3205171aaa1adbd33416.png

Phrygia Hierapolis 'Pseudo-autonomous': Second or early third century AD

(Bronze, 5.61g 19mm).

laureateheaded and draped bust of the Demos (bearded), left. ΔΗΜΟϹ

ΙƐΡΑΠΟΛƐΙΤΩΝ ΧΡVϹΟΡΟΑϹ river-god Chrysoroas reclining, left, holding poppy and two ears of corn, resting on water-urn

L. Weber, NC 1913, 18, VIII, no. 3, RPC IV.2, 9989 (temporary) 

 

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...i have a Hadrian denarius that, after scrolling down and seeing Ambr0zie's  Ant. Pious with the same reverse of the modius that does indeed have a poopy(i thought so^^)..you will pardon the rest of the coins in the shot for they aren't the subject matter herein...

IMG_0401.JPG

IMG_0402.JPG

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When I think of poppies this coin comes readily to mind.

 

V1475.png.9a523943d86f02dcc0a5be08de1363cc.png

Vespasian

AR Denarius, 3.48g
Ephesus (?) mint, 76 AD
Obv: IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r., a small 'o' mint mark below neck
Rev: FIDES PVBL; Hands clasped over caduceus, two poppies and two corn ears
RIC 1475 (R). BMC 490. RSC 163a. RPC 1452 (6 spec.). BNC -.
Acquired from Malter Galleries, December 2010.

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Similar to the Balundus coin:

normal_Faustina_II_R786_Maeonia_fac.jpg.299aeb9fe77903a6fd67d834d497f38a.jpg

Lydia, Maeonia
Faustina II
Diodoros, magistrate
AE 22
Obv.: ΦΑΥϹΤƐΙΝΑ ϹƐΒΑϹΤΗ, draped bust of Faustina II, r.
Rev: ƐΠΙ ΔΙοΔΩΡοΥ ΜΑΙοΝΩΝ, veiled Demeter standing, l., holding two ears of corn and poppy   in right and, long torch in left hand.
Assarion (Orichalcum, 22 mm, 5.35 g, 6 h)
Ref.: RPC IV.2 online 10674, SNG Leypold 1070

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If you like ancient poppies you might enjoy this 55-year-old article from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime: "The history of the poppy and of opium and their expansion in antiquity in the eastern Mediterranean area" by P. G. KRITIKOS and S. P. PAPADAKI.  Part 2, the coin part, is here.

Here is another coin.  This one was tough to attribute for me.

tomi-both.jpg.bf504b952d416d41b112da2cf1e85f79.jpg

Moesia Inferior, Tomi. Nerva (96-98 AD), AE16, 2.91g; RPC vol. 3 #778
Obv: [ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤωΡ Ν]ΕΡΟΥΑ; laureate head of Nerva, r.
Rev: [ΤΟ/Μ//ƐΙΤ/]ωΝ; bunch of 3 ears of corn and 2 poppy heads
ex Pegasi Numismatics, WESPNEX coin show, 2005 (misattributed as an unpublished coin of Elaeia in Aeolis.)

Edited by Ed Snible
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amorion2.jpg.94cde7fcd8128d0e09627e2c384b5f5f.jpg

Phrygia, Amorium. Apollo/Demeter Æ26

Obv: ΑΜΟΡΙΑΝΩΝ, head of Apollo, r.; to r., lyre.
Rev: ƐΠΙ ϹƐΡΤΟΡΟϹ ΑΝΤΩΝΙΟV, veiled Demeter standing, l., holding poppy, ears of corn and long torch.
Reign Antoninus Pius.
Magistrate Sertor. Antonios (without title).
RPC 1706 (temporary)

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I have two that have Poppies. 🙂

Julia Domna, Sardes in Lydia
IOYΛΙA CЄBACTH, Draped bust right

CAPΔΙΑΝΩΝ B NЄΩKOPΩN, cult image of Kore facing, wearing polos and veil, between a corn-ear on the left and poppy on the right

Julia Domna, Sardes Julia Domna, 193-211 A.D.  Ae 19mm; 3.68 grams  Sardes in Lydia   IOYΛΙA CЄBACTH,  Draped bust right  CAPΔΙΑΝΩΝ B NЄΩKOPΩN,  cult image of Kore facing, wearing polos and veil, between a corn-ear on the left and poppy on the right  BMC 149; SNG Cop 529; Mionnet IV, 737; Paris 1254 Keywords: julia domna, sardes, kore

Julia Domna

IVLIA DO-MNA AVG, Draped bust right
FELICITAS TEMPOR, Vase shaped basket containing corn ears and poppies

Julia Domna, Basket [b]IVLIA DO-MNA AVG[/b] Draped bust right  [b]FELICITAS TEMPOR[/b] Vase shaped basket containing corn ears and poppies  Emesa/Syrian mint Ar Denarius; 3.8g ; 18.16mm RIC IV 620 Emesa Mint Keywords: Julia Domna Emesa Basket

 

 
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