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Searching for the Source(s): Epics, Classics and ancient historians that we love


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I've always been interested in history. But since being introduced to ancient coins I've been fortunate to have amassed a considerable collection/obsession with antiquity. I've read and listened to amazing stories and recountings of the history that brings me/us to this bizarre world we inhabit today.

It's almost embarrassing to say but it was just a couple of months ago that I read the first EPIC ever jotted down by man (that we've found), Gilgamesh (c. 2500–1300 BCE)

image-20170322-27966-yag6gc.png.c439f7f150a08f23964016e4cfc4a1ba.pnggive me back Enkidu!


, and I effing LOVED it!!! Much like when I was a kid/teen reading Homer's the Iliad & Odyssey.


3765977_1675927772.l.jpg.269f506d93fe63ea60a025787ee1e037.jpgC. MAMILIUS LIMETANUS. Serrate Denarius (82 BC). Rome.

Obv: Draped bust of Mercury right, wearing petasus; to left, control letter [N] above caduceus.


Ulysses advancing right, holding staff and extending hand to his dog Argus.

Crawford 362/1. Condition: Area of weakness, otherwise Very fine.

Weight: 3.66 g. Diameter: 20 mm.

Or a few years ago when I read up on the Peloponnesian war, much of what we know about thanks to the reject Athenian General Thucydides. 



Islands off Attica. Salamis 350-318 BC. Bronze Æ 14mm., 2,78gr. Head of nymph Salamis right, wearing stephane / SA_LA Shield of Ajax. very fine SNG Copenhagen 455. Purchased from Art & Coins #2 Jan 2022

And again when coming across Xenophon's Anabasis (The March Up Country).

Screenshot_20230714_184349_Chrome.jpg.e21e4c3637ab2b7f92c0af69ef4afb10.jpg The story that inspired Philip ll and his son Alexander III to invade Persia... for retaliatory reasons😉😉


ATTICA, Athens. Circa 353-294 BC. AR Tetradrachm (22mm, 17.20 g, 8h). Helmeted head of Athena right, with profile eye and pi-style palmette / Owl standing right, head facing; olive sprig and crescent behind. Bingen Pi-style III; Kroll –; HGC 4, 1599.

Or even Zac Snyder's 300:



ACHAEMENID EMPIRE AR Siglos OBVERSE: Persian king or hero in kneeling/running stance right, holding spear and bow REVERSE: Incuse punch w/countermark Struck at Persia, 485-420 BC 5.57 g, 15 mm Carradice Type IIIb, Group A/B (pl. XII, 18) 

I read these classics and histories and immediately felt connected to something more. A greater understanding of what our ancestors felt, lived and whom the were.  

Other great reads/listens:

The Histories by Herodotus


Cicero's orations

Plutarch parallel lives

Tasitus Annals



Are ones that come to mind. 

But please, Give me more! What are some of your favorite ancient sources, writers, historians? What did they talk about and teach us? And why do you recommend/attach to them? And coins of the period would be really cool too.


Ionia, Smyrna. Circa 125-115 BC. Æ 20mm (21mm, 8.27g). Phanokrates, magistrate. Laureate head of Apollo right / The poet Homer seated left, holding scroll. Milne, Autonomous 194a; SNG Copenhagen. Former Kairos Numismatik



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I too have been going through numerous books on ancient history. My wife just rolls her eyes every time another package comes in. If it's a thin package, then they're coins. Bigger packages are books. That's pretty much all we receive.

Although they're more histories than epics, I greatly enjoyed these:
Josephus (still getting through it)

In particular I loved reading Pausanias' descriptions of many of the same things I saw in Greece.

It's worth mentioning the first ancient novels. So far I've read:
An Ephesian Story
The Voyage of Argo
The Satryicon
Daphnis and Chloe

I'll read soon:
Leucippe and Clitophon
The Golden Ass

Of course, there's straight mythology
The Library by Apollodoros
Theogeny by Hesiod

Along the line of Herodotos (IMHO the all time best):
Xenophon's Hellenika

On Alexander the Great:
Diodorus Siculus
The Alexander Romance (mostly false, but an intriguing read)
Epitome of the Philippic History Of Pompeius Trogus
Quintus Curtius Rufus

Random works I've read:
On Horsemanship by Xenophon
Albanian Folktales and Legends by Elsie (many originate from Illyrian times)
Aesop's Fables

Then of course you have the plays:
Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes (duh. Aristophanes was my favorite as a kid. I read these as a kid and re-read them maybe 10 years ago. Probably time for another pass)

Plato and Aristotle obviously make the list. I haven't read Plato since I was a kid, but I recently read Aristotle's Politics.

I haven't read too much Roman other than these:
Civil War by Lucan
The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius
The Consolation of Philosophy

Weird book on my reading list:
The Elephantine Papyri in English


Larissa Kremaste, Thessaly
302 - 286 BCE
Ae 17.6mm 5.1g
Obv: Head of Achilles left
Rev: Thetis riding left on hippocamp holding shield of Achilles with XA monogram; LAPI below
SNG Cop. 151


The Temple of Apollo Epikorios at Bassae. Visited by Pausanias and described in detail. Perhaps the best preserved Greek temple in the world and would be even more remarkable if the British Museum returned the frieze, which was looted.




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What a fun and interesting thread, @Ryro! You have some fascinating coins!

My favorite period -- numismatically, anyway -- is the Antonine period. We have literally hundreds and hundreds of coin types issued at the Rome mint from Antoninus Pius to the death of Commodus; throw in provincial issues and that number easily doubles. The period lasted from 138 CE to New Years Eve of 192. That's a whopping 54 years!!! You'd think we'd have all sorts of historians writing during the period and it would be well-documented, but it's NOT.

We have no Tacitus, Suetonius, or Plutarch for the period. The only source even close to being contemporary is Cassius Dio, and he was younger than Commodus! Of Dio's work, books 70-72 covered the Antonines, and these volumes didn't survive antiquity as-is. Rather, they are preserved in fragmentary quotations in Xiphilinus, Zonaras, and Peter the Patrician, and in the Excerpta Valesiana and the Suda.

There's the Historia Augusta, of course, but it's a collection of (bogus) biographies of Roman emperors of the second and third centuries. The modern history buff would be well advised to take it with so many grains of salt his blood pressure would rise to apoplectic levels.

Basically, for the Antonine period, we have to consult non-historical writings from the period, such as the correspondence of M. Cornelius Fronto, the tutor of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, and various chronicles and inscriptions, such as the Fasti Ostienses and the Institutes of Gaius. Much of what we know about the Antonine period comes from the numismatic evidence itself.

In terms of the Antonine women, there is a lot of uncertainty. We're not sure in what years Faustina I or Faustina II were born! There's some debate about the dates of their deaths, with some historians assigning a date of 141 for Faustina the Elder's demise, though there is strong evidence she died in October or November 140. There is scholarly debate about how many children Faustina II bore, with some saying 13 and others saying 11. Did she have one set of twins (quite probably) or two (unlikely; this seems to be based upon a misinterpretation of a certain coin type of Antoninus Pius)?

This mystery about the Faustinas and the role of coinage at fleshing out their biographies is one thing I find very exciting. Here are some coins depicting Faustina the Younger's growing family.







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Gilgamesh is a genuinely beautiful and interesting  poem (with a good translation!). When I first read it I sat down to  grind through it because I sort of thought  I should rather than with any  anticipation but  I was completely wrong.

19 hours ago, Ryro said:

What are some of your favorite ancient sources, writers, historians?

Sadly there are very few non-fragmentary completely contemporary ones for Western Greek poleis. Pindar is one of the best sources, and as with Gilgamesh, it can be stunning, despite  his reputation as a for-hire praise poet. He worked a lot for Hieron I, so here's a short extract borrowed from tufts.edu and a coin!


 Great city of Syracuse! Sacred precinct of Ares, plunged deep in war! Divine nurse of men and horses who rejoice in steel! For you I come from splendid Thebes bringing this song, a message of the earth-shaking four-horse race  in which Hieron with his fine chariot won the victory, and so crowned Ortygia with far-shining garlands—Ortygia, home of Artemis the river-goddess: not without her help did Hieron master with his gentle hands the horses with embroidered reins. For the virgin goddess who showers arrows and Hermes the god of contests present the gleaming reins to him with both hands when he yokes the strength of his horses to the polished car, to the chariot that obeys the bit, and calls on the wide-ruling god who wields the trident. Other kings have other men to pay them the tribute of melodious song, the recompense for excellence.  The voices of the men of Cyprus often shout the name of Cinyras, whom golden-haired Apollo gladly loved, Cinyras, the obedient priest of Aphrodite. Reverent gratitude is a recompense for friendly deeds. And you, son of Deinomenes, the West Locrian girl invokes you, standing outside her door: out of the helpless troubles of war,  through your power she looks at the world in security....


 Syracuse, AR Tetradrachm, ~478AD, Bust of Arethusa right, Diademed, necklaced, archaic eye type, 4 dolphins around, / ΣVRAKOΣΙΟΝ in retrograde around, rev Charioteer driving quadriga right, holding reins and kentron Nike flying above, wings outstretched, crowning horses.







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Well, let's see.

Some historians:






Diodorus Siculus








Cassius Dio


Ammianus Marcellinus

Aurelius Victor





Anna Comnena (The Alexiad)

etc. etc.


Some literature:




The Idylls of Theocritus


Military Texts:

Vegetius' De re Militari

Maurice Tiberius' Strategicon



Edited by Ancient Coin Hunter
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This will pale by comparison to all of these, formidable collections of Classical history.  But my two favorite medieval historians have to be the near-contemporaries of the earlier-mid 13th century, Matthew Paris, English --literally, despite the name-- monk and chronicaler /annalist, and Snorri Sturlusson, who wrote the Heimskringla, a cycle of sagas about the kings of Norway.  A close third is Gilbert of Mons, the court chaplain to Baldwin V of Hainaut /VIII of Flanders (1171-95).  He wrote a very detailed account of Baldwin's reign.  ...Oops, and who could forget (--besides yours truly, that is) Jean de Joinville, on Louis IX's two crusades, especially his first?  Joinville was a participant, and isn't shy about personal anecdotes; his 'Chronicle' is really better described as a memoir.

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