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Coins don't have to be expensive or rare to be interesting. Sometimes one comes across a type that proves to be very educational with a little bit of research. Such was the case with this common dual-portrait coin of Gordian III and his wife Tranquillina from Mesembria.

Gordian III (238-244 CE) with wife Tranquillina (241-244 CE).
Roman provincial AE 25.8 mm, 11.44 g.
Thrace, Mesembria, 241-244 CE.
Obv: ΑVΤ Κ Μ ΓΟΡΔΙΑΝΟC ΑVΓ CΕΒ-ΤΡΑΝΚVΛΛΙΝ, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Gordian and draped bust of Tranquillina, wearing stephane, confronted.
Rev: ΜΕCΑΜΒΡΙΑΝΩΝ, Apollo Musagetes in long robe, standing left, holding plectrum in outstretched right hand and resting left on lyre set on column.
Refs: RPC VII.2, 1226; BMC 3.133,15; Moushmov 3998; Varbanov 4175-4176.

There is a lot to learn from this coin, from the technical aspects of the lathe-dimple and compass dot on the obverse to the iconography of the figure of Apollo on its reverse. This post concerns the reverse type.

I consulted BMC Greek vol. 3 in the course of attributing the coin. There, Head and Gardner describe the reverse figure as Apollo Musagetes. I thought that was an interesting epithet for the god and set out to learn more about Apollo in his role as Musagetes. Musagetes means "leader of the Muses" and refers to his role as protector and supporter of the Muses. As such, he is depicted with plectrum and lyre. Apollo has a similar epithet, Citharoedus (lyre-player), and scholars of classical antiquity often use Musagetes and Citharoedus interchangeably when writing about artifacts depicting Apollo with a lyre, such as websites here, here, and here, which all describe the same marble statue in the Pio-Clementino Museum in Vatican City.


This statuette attributed to Massimiliano (Benzi) Soldani (Italian, 1656–1740) has similar iconography to the coin from Mesembria.


Apollo Musagetes is also the subject of a dreadful poem by 19th Century English poet, Matthew Arnold, as well as a 1928 ballet by Igor Stravinsky.

I have long maintained that reading about the history and iconography in one's ancient coin collection is equivalent to a bachelor's degree in classics. I enjoyed this little excursion into mythology, art history, poetry, dance, and music and I hope you did too!

Post your coins of Apollo with his lyre!

Edited by Roman Collector
Grievous crimes against the comma.
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Great research and fun read, per always, my man.

Oh, pretty boy Apollo gets to lead nine foxy women in charge of all of the arts in who knows what kind of orgiastic rites... kind of reminds me of myself in high school:


Here Apollo is with two of his Muses!


Q. POMPONIUS MUSA. Fourrée denarius (56 BC). Rome. Obv: Laureate head of Apollo right; sceptre to left.

Rev: Q POMPONI MVSA. Melpomene standing left, wearing sword and holding club and mask.Cf. Crawford 410/4 (for prototype).Fine.2.95 g, 17 mm. Numismatik Naumann Feb 2021


Q. POMPONIUS MUSA. AR, Denarius, 56 BC. Rome. Obv: Laureate head of Apollo right; two crossed tibiae to left.

Rev: MVSA / Q POMPONI. Euterpe (Muse of Music and Lyric Poetry) standing right, resting on column, holding two flutes.

Crawford 410/5. Condition: VF. Weight: 3.62 g.Diameter: 17.45 mm.

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P Clodius, denarius 42 BC, laureate head of Apollo, lyre behind


Brutus, denarius 42 BC, obv - Apollo, rev  - lyre0CE4690B-D78B-4D9E-BE97-304D50C51D0B.jpeg.8118f5599d252ed3e66c251ed763868c.jpegBD083F98-372C-4357-8121-EC4907C4BCF2.jpeg.a4d223b6bd92263e8f51063c5f0ac517.jpeg

OOPS - This is Libertas, not Apollo!! At least I got the lyre right.

Edited by jdmKY
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Here's an Antoninus Pius with a reverse depicting Apollo wearing a long robe and holding a lyre. The depiction is rather similar to the Apollo Musagetes portrayals above, although so far as I know it's never been named as such:


Here's Gordian III again, just posted in the Roman Imperial portrait thread:


And here's the anonymous civic issue from the reign of Maximinus II again, just posted in the Nilus/river god thread:


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Apollo doesn't play the lyre on this coin, but it's pretty close.


. Clodius M.f. Turrinus 42 BC. Rome

Denarius AR

19 mm, 3,81 g

Obv. Laureate head of Apollo right; behind, lyre.
Rev. P.CLODIVS – ·M·F, Diana standing facing, with bow and quiver over shoulder, holding lit torch in each hand.
Crawford 494/23; BMCRR Rome 4290.


Edit - missed the previous post (with a much better example of the type) - so here is an Apolloless ... detailed lyre from Sestos


Edited by ambr0zie
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7 hours ago, Roman Collector said:

Apollo Musagetes is also the subject of a dreadful poem by 19th Century English poet, Matthew Arnold,

If you think this is dreadful 19th century poetry, you probably haven't yet encountered the works of William Topaz McGonagall...

Here is my favorite Apollo with lyre:


Caracalla, Roman Empire, denarius, 215 AD, Rome mint. Obv: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG GERM; laureate head of Caracalla r. Rev: P M TR P XVIII COS IIII P P; Apollo, naked except for cloak flying behind, standing l., holding branch in extended r. hand and with l. hand lyre set on altar. 21mm, 3.04g. Ref: RIC IV Caracalla 254.

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26 minutes ago, Di Nomos said:

This coin was minted in Olynthos (under the Chalkidian League) in Macedon around 390 BC. It has Apollo on the obverse and a kithara on the reverse.

The kithara is a larger form of lyre. The lyre generally has two or three strings, the kithara five or six. 


Wow 😲, what a stunning classical portrait of Apollo 🤩.

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7 hours ago, Roman Collector said:

Coins don't have to be expensive or rare to be interesting.

Thank the Gods!


I don't think this one has been shown here. It has Apollo Lairbenos on the obverse and Apollo Kitharoedos on Reverse.


Phrygia, Hierapolis. Pseudo-autonomous AE26. Apollo Lairbenos/Apollo Kitharoedos

LAIRBHNO C; Bust of Apollo Lairbenos r., radiate, shoulders draped.
IERAPO LEITWN; Apollo Kitharoedos (Archegetes) in long chiton and mantle, standing r., holding in lowered r. plectrum, and carrying lyre with l.
26mm. 12.0 gm.
Time of Caracalla (?) and later.



Lydia, Tripolis. AE15. Semi-autonomous. AD 14-37.

Obv: TΡIΠOΛEITΩN, laureate head of Apollo right, with lyre.
Rev: MENANΔΡOΣ ΦIΛO KAIΣAΡ TO Δ, four lines within wreath, Maeander pattern below.
Magistrate Menandros.



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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Gallienus with an Apollo and Lyre reverse:GallienusMilanRICV-1-467c2.JPG.bbb3fd6e9e8db42cb6a52962faa89929.JPG
Gallienus AR Antoninianus. Mediolanum, AD 262-263. GALLIENVS AVG, radiate bust to right / APOLLO CONSERVA, Apollo standing facing, raising hand to head and holding lyre on altar. RIC V.1 467 (sole reign) var. (altar); MIR 1166h; RSC 93. 

…and Quintillus from Rome. You can’t really see the Lyre but it’s there!

Quintillus 270 AD
AE antoninianus
Rome Mint
Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right
Apollo standing left with lyre at feet to right

Edited by Orange Julius
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