Jump to content

Glykon on a small denomination from Hadrianopolis


Recommended Posts

It's rather difficult to be sure which serpent is which in the extremely multicultural world of the Roman Balkan to the Black Sea area. Once Glykon enters the landscape, likely around the mid 2nd century, things become even more complex. Usually, particular serpents and serpent-gods appear on larger denominations.

This one is an exception -- a Glykon on a small denomination:


CARACALLA (198-217)
AE20mm 3.35g copper assarion, minted at Hadrianopolis, ca. 212-217.
AVT K M AVP CEV - ...; laureate bearded head in truncation r.
AΔPIANOΠOΛEITO - N; coiled Glykon r. with long hair and mamal (calf? lion? antropomorphized?) head


There is an interesting variation in the representations of serpents on 'provincial' coinage: some representations are obviously associated with Asklepios/Hygeia directly, like the serpent coiled on staff, others seem to show a serpent with beard and sometimes a crown, but still with the overall look of a regular snake, sometimes even showing the forked tongue, these are likely representations of Agathodaimon, while other representations have a serpent coiled with features of different animals -- a fish tail or a lion tail, long hair and a more anthropomorphized head, likely associated with the cult of Glykon. In many cases the features of these categories are combined, possibly on purpose by the die-cutters, following the indications of the local authorities who welcomed the ambiguity between different types of serpents, as there was likely an ambiguity between these different cults using the serpent as a symbol in the Roman cities.

All these considered, this particular representation seems to be of Glykon -- it shows the posture from the known cult statue of Glykon at Tomis, it shows a very similar head shape and features and most importantly it has the long hair that is probably the most indicative feature of a serpent being Glykon. Another specimen recorded of this very rare issue also seems to be showing a fish tail, which is a departure from the statue at Tomis (that one has a lion's tail). There is also a similar reverse known from Ulpia Pautalia, but showing an effigy of the emperor as a young teenager, thus dating likely from around 200 (ebay item #364041909541 now unavailable and here), hinting to the very close link between the two Thracian cities and possibly that at certain times both cities were served by the same mint or itinerant die-cutters and mint masters.

Edited by seth77
  • Like 14
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • seth77 changed the title to Glykon on a small denomination from Hadrianopolis

Very interesting coin! It's the first of its type that I've seen. I think your Glykon identification is correct.

Here's one from Marcianopolis - Glykon has the typical beard, but also a mammalian snout.


Moesia Inferior, Marcianopolis, Macrinus with Diadumenian, Æ Pentassarion

217-218 AD
Pontianus, legatus consularis.
Obverse: AVT K OΠEΛ CEV MAKPEINOC K M OΠEΛ ANTΩNEINOC; Confronted heads of Macrinus, laureate, and Diadumenian, bare-headed.
Reverse: VΠ ΠONTIANOV MAPKIANOΠOΛEITΩN; Serpent Glykon coiled right; E (mark of value) in field to left.
References: Varbanov 1286 var. (obv. legend).
27mm; 11.39 g

  • Like 8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...