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Facing Heads

Phil Anthos

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I have always been a sucker for facing head coins. They were difficult to do justice too compared with standard profile portraits, and were often left to master engravers. But the very nature of the facing heads made them subject to damage and wear, especially when rendered in high relief. Noses seem particularly vulnerable and some portraits look like they've gone a few rounds with the champ. But they can be SO beautiful!

I'd love to see any facing heads in your collections, and of course show off some my own.  😎

This one is a silver drachm from Herakleia in Lucania.

281-278 BC
AR Drachm (16.5mm, 3.82g) 
O: Head of Athena, three-quarters facing right, wearing crested Attic helmet decorated with Scylla throwing stone; Φ behind. 
R: Owl with wings closed, standing right on olive branch; club to right, |-HPAKΛEIΩN above, ΣΩΣI to left. 
Van Keuren 114; HGC I, 999; HN Italy 1411

~ Peter Hope 


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That is a sweet coin @Phil Anthos!

No master engravers on these bronzes.


Seleukid Empire, Antiochos I Soter Æ14

Obv: Helmeted head of Athena facing / ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ.
Rev: Nike standing to left, holding wreath and palm frond; monograms to outer left and inner right.
Smyrna or Sardes, c. 281-261 BC.



Lycaonia, Iconium. Æ 15mm. Pseudo-autonomous, c. AD 69-96.

Obv: Winged head of Medusa facing.
Rev: ΚΛΑΥΔЄΙΚΟΝΙЄѠΝ, Kybele seated to left, holding patera and resting arm on drum.
RPC II 1608B



Unidentified AE 8mm. 3/4 facing.



Phokis, Federal Coinage. Phokian League Circa 371-357 BC

Obv: Head of Athena 3/4 facing l.
Rev: Phi within wreath.
AE 13mm.
Struck under Phalaikos or later
BCD Lokris-Phokis 358.2., SNG Copenhagen 113-116.

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A rare  photo of Helios' face after sparring Tyson Fury.

Alexander the Molossian, king of Epeiros Twelfth Stater, c. 333-330 BC. Obv. Radiate head of Helios facing slightly left. Rev. Thunderbolt; above, AΛ and below, EΞ.  Usually classed  under the Tarentum  mint.




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Theodosius II, AE3 - Constantinople mint, 1st officina
DN THEODOSIVS AVG, Diademed and cuirassed bust of Theodiosius facing, holding spear on his right shoulder
CONCORDI A AVG, Constantinopolis, seated, facing, holding spear and a victory on globe. In exergue CONSA
2,25 gr, 16 mm
Ref : RC # 4296, LRBC # 2212 var, RIC X, 90 (R4)


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From Katane, a couple more beaten up faces, though these are  actually decent in hand. Just for  context, these were the dying days of the polis. A handful of years  later Dionysios sold the city into slavery, partly because they were yet another victim of Alcibiades' wooing hence revenge for the Sicilian expedition, but  partly because, well, he needed the money. A superb  mint ended too...

Drachm. Circa 405-403/2 BC. Female charioteer  galloping quadriga right; above, Nike  crowning charioteer with wreath held in outstretched arms; KATANAIΩN in exergue / Horned head of the river-god Amenanos




And a repeat appearance by Amenanos, though this  time on the reverse 

410-405 BC. Drachm. Head of Silenos facing. Rev. ΚΑΤΑΝΑΙΩΝ Head of the river god Amenanos and with small horn on his forehead.



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Here's another Helios, this one from the Sitichoro hoard...

Macedonian Kingdom, Reign of Perseus

171-170 BC
AR Drachm (15mm, 2.81g)
Uncertain mint in Thessaly
Hermios magistrate.
O: Head of Helios facing 3/4 right, hair loose.
R: Rose with bud on right; I-Ω to either side of stem, EPMIAΣ (magistrate) above.
Price, Larissa p. 241; SNG Keckman 795; Sear 5092 

~ Peter Hope 



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No beauties from me. Even Sybile is looking like a gorgon.

Troas, Gergis. Circa 4th-3rd Century BC. AE12mm, 1.28 g. Head of Sibyl Herophile right, three-quarters facing / ΓEΡ, Sphinx sitting right. SNG von Aulock 1515; SNG Ashmolean 1147; SNG Cop 338





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Kings of Paeonia, Audoleon AR Drachm
Astibos or Damastion mint(?), circa 315-286 BCE
2.97g, 14mm, 1h.
Head of Athena facing slightly to left, wearing triple crested helmet
Horse trotting to right; AYΔΩΛEΩN-TOΣ around, monogram below.
Peykov E4400; AMNG III/2, 7 var. (position of monogram); SNG ANS 1057 corr. (monogram not star on rev.); HGC 3.1, 154



Ionia, Phygela
Circa 350-300 BCE
Æ 2.86g, 15mm, 12h
Sokrates, magistrate. Head of Artemis Munychia facing slightly to left
Bull butting to left against palm tree; ΦΥΓ above, ΣΩΚΡΑΤΗΣ below.
SNG von Aulock 2150; SNG Copenhagen 1074; BMC 4-8. 

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Thessaly, Perrhaiboi, 4th century BC, Æ Trichalkon (20mm, 6.62g, 12h)
Obv: Veiled head of Hera facing slightly left
Rev: ΠΕΡΡΑΙ[ΒΩΝ], Zeus standing left, holding scepter and thunderbolt; star to inner right
Ref: Rogers 438, fig. 238; BCD Thessaly I 1244; From the BCD Collection

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I have a couple of facing heads. Spent a lot of time debating before purchasing these coins, as I'm a bit fussy!

First coin Apollo on a drachm from Amphipolis in Macedon, c. 370 BC. I particularly like the coins of Amphipolis, especially the tetradrachms, but they are very pricey. This drachm was a bit more affordable, and still nice style. 

Second a stater from Larissa in Thessaly, c. 340 BC. A popular type amongst collectors of Ancient Greek coins. Took a while to find one I really liked and was affordable, but happy with this. 




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Facing heads are difficult to engrave and susceptible to wear, as correctly mentioned ... but stand out because they are rare. Collectors expect to see a coin with an obverse facing right. Facing left makes a coin stand out from the crowd. A facing head - even more. 

A few examples

Antiochos I bronze with a facing Athena.



Gorgons/Medusa were a favorite theme for facing portraits 







Republican L. Plautius Plancus 


Apollonia Pontika



Personal favorite - head of Silenos on a Methymna hemiobol


Another very popular subject for front facing - Helios - Mylasa (imitating Rhodos)


The Sibyl Herophye on a Gergis coin:



Front facing portraits became a standard in Byzantine coinage which I do not actively collect. But I think this Arcadius coin is  "proto-byzantine"  in terms of artistry 



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Metapontion Ar Nomos 330-290 BC Obv 3/4 facing head of Demeter right wreathed in grain. Rv Grain ear Johnston Class C 2.2 HGC 1064 This coin illustrated 7.92 grms 20 mm Photo by W. Hansen


This image is noteworthy in that Demeter is depicted with wide staring eyes, My suspicion is that the image was an attempt to convey something of the power of her gaze. 

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9 hours ago, kapphnwn said:

Metapontion Ar Nomos 330-290 BC Obv 3/4 facing head of Demeter right wreathed in grain. Rv Grain ear Johnston Class C 2.2 HGC 1064 This coin illustrated 7.92 grms 20 mm Photo by W. Hansen


This image is noteworthy in that Demeter is depicted with wide staring eyes, My suspicion is that the image was an attempt to convey something of the power of her gaze. 

Yep, love these coins!

Interesting comments regarding the Metapontum Demeter. I've always thought Her eyes looked rather owl-ish.

Here's my Larissa. The portrait is lovely but at some point in time somebody decided to geld the horse!...

Larissa, Thessaly

Circa 356-342 BC
AR Drachm (21mm, 5.83g) 
O: Head of nymph Larissa facing slightly left, hair in ampyx, wearing single-pendant earring and plain necklace. 
R: Horse standing right, preparing to lie down; ΛΑΡΙΣ−ΑΙΩΝ above and below.
Lorber L-III; BCD Thessaly II, 319; SNG Cop 120-121

~ Peter Hope 


Edited by Phil Anthos
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Here's a less-attractive Metapontum head. Athena,  not Demeter. 

Bronze Circa 300-250 BC. Draped bust of Athena slightly to right, triple-crested helmet / Barley ear with leaf to right; META to left, cross-torch above leaf.



And sort of Greek at a real  push, probably Arethusa at least...probably Ares too.  The helmet's Attic!


Cilicia, Tarsos AR Stater. Pharnabazos, c380-373 BC. Diademed female head slightly left / Bearded male head (Ares?) to left, wearing crested Attic helmet







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Carian Dynasts. Maussolus, Satrap, 377-353 BC. AR Tetradrachm (23mm, 15.03 g, 12h). Obv: Head of Apollo facing, slightly right. Rev: Zeus standing right, holding double axe (labrys) and lotus-tipped sceptre. Ref: SNG Cop 590; SNG von Aulock 2359/2360. Good Very Fine, darkly toned, slight horn silver in reverse field. Ex CNG 35 (20 Sept 1995), Lot 306. Ex Nilus Coins.


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Two facing heads:


Kingdom of Elymais
Orodes II
Early-Mid 2nd Cent AD
Æ Tetradrachm
Obv.: Facing Bust in Tiara with crest of rays and central line; 2 Crossbars on anchor
Rev.: Dashes
Æ, 16.12 g., 23x25 mm.
Ref.: Van´t Haaff Type 13.3, Subtype 1-2b THIS COIN



Larissa, Thessaly
AE Dichalkon
Obv.: Head of nymph Larissa facing, head turned slightly to left, wreathed with grain, wearing double strand plain necklace
Rev: ΛAPIΣAIΩN, Cavalrymen on horse prancing right, lance in right, wearing Boiotian helmet, ∆A monogram
AE, 5.45g, 17.1mm
Ref.: BCD Thessaly I 1171.1, BCD Thessaly II 393.3, SNG Cop 140, cf. Rogers 285

Edited by shanxi
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A weird little coin from a weird little town. This one always reminds me of the Cowardly Lion.

Phistelia, Campania

325-275 BC
AR Obol (10mm, 0.55g)
O: Head of Nymph facing slightly left.
R: Lion standing left, right forepaw raised; star above, [serpent] in exergue(?).
SNG ANS 590; HGC I, 505; HN Italy 619 

~ Peter Hope 


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