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Reading the Ancient Stars


Sulla80
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Stars of Scorpio, modified image from IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott & Rick Fienberg), used under CC BY 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

August Signs

I picked up this little coin mostly for the well executed scorpion.  It is a little bronze weighing, 2.88mg and 13mm in diameter that has a Capricorn on the obverse and a nice scorpion on the reverse.  So why might these two symbols be on a coin from some time near year 4 AD?  These are likely the astrological signs that are associated with Augustus (Capricorn) and Tiberius (Scorpio).  Augustus was born 23 September 63 BC and his lunar sign of Capricorn appears on many coins. According to Suetonius, Augustus seems to have had some early sensitivity about his horoscope - perhaps that explains why he used his lunar sign instead of solar sign (which based on his birth-date would have been Libra)?

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"Agrippa was the first to try his fortune, and when a great and almost incredible career was predicted for him, Augustus persisted in concealing the time of his birth and in refusing to disclose it, through diffidence and fear that he might be found to be less eminent. When he at last gave it unwillingly and hesitatingly, and only after many requests, Theogenes sprang up and threw himself at his feet. From that time on Augustus had such faith in his destiny, that he made his horoscope public and issued a silver coin stamped with the sign of the constellation Capricorn, under which he was born."

-Suetonius, The Life of Augustus 94.12

For anyone interested in ancient sources - the Loeb Classical Library is a worthwhile investment - many sources easy to search and often not available from older internet available editions : e.g. this reference from Manilius:

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"Capricorn on the other hand turns his gaze upon himself (what greater sign can he ever marvel at, since it was he that shone propitiously upon Augustus’ birth?) and catches with his ears the height of topmost Cancer."

-Manilius, Astrologica, 507-509

Tiberius was born on 16 November 42 BC and would have been a Scorpio. This symbol also associated with the Praetorian guard, even before the time of Tiberius, and used on their armor.  Not a bad sign for a future emperor.

 

Succession Planning

Gaius and Lucius, the children of Julia and Agrippa both died within 18 months of each other.  In AD4, Augustus adopted Tiberius to ensure a suitable successor.  Livia was about six months pregnant with Tiberius by her first husband.  She divorced Tiberius Claudius Nero to marry Octavian/Augustus in 38 BC.  According to Cassius Dio this instigated a popular proverb:

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"Now the populace gossiped a great deal about this and said, among other things, "The lucky have children in three months"; and this saying passed into a proverb."

-Cassius Dio, Roman History, 48.44

There were no great plans for Tiberius as successor until the deaths of Augustus' grandsons.

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"But at the height of his happiness and his confidence in his family and its training, Fortune proved fickle. He found the two Julias, his daughter and granddaughter, guilty of every form of vice, and banished them. He lost Gaius and Lucius within the span of eighteen months, for the former died in Lycia and the latter at Massilia."

-Suetonius, The Life of Augustus, 65.1

 

The Mint

These coins have been mostly found in Cyprus, and Hill attributed these to "Cyprus under the Romans" in 1917.  Others have attributed them to Commagene (Imhoof-Blumer 1889) or Gallatia.  The zodiac symbols of the two emperors lead to a hypothesis that the coin was minted at the time of the adoption of Tiberius under Augustus.  The die axis matches the die axis of 12 for Cypriot coins.  See RPC for references - although note that they incorrectly reference the Numismatic Chronicles (NC) from 1927 for Hill - should be NC 1917 as referenced by Cox in 1959 for coin 131 ).

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Caesar's Divinity

The stars on this coin are likely sidus Iulium - Caesar's comet (or star) which was seen as a sign of Caesar's deification when it appeared July 44 BC.  The appearance of this comet in 44 BC has been verified by an assessment of evidence by Ramsey and Licht published in 1997.  The star appears on quite a few Roman coins associated with the divine Julius Caesar including this denarius (on the reverse - centered on the pediment):

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For a discussion of Augustus' use of the comet and the popular acceptance of this sign of Julius Caesar's divinity see: PANDEY, NANDINI B. “Caesar’s Comet, the Julian Star, and the Invention of Augustus.Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-2014) 143, no. 2 (2013): 405–49.   The Julian star which may have first been greeted as a sign of Julius Caesar's divinity and perhaps with dread of civil war that came with his death, grew in mythical proportion as it was leveraged by politicians, on coins, by poets, politicians, and historians.

 

The AE Coin

Finally, returning to the coin of interest: here much larger than it's true size of 13mm:

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Cyprus, under Roman Administration under Augustus, pseudo-autonomous issue, early 1st century AD,  Æ (13 mm, 2.88g, 12 h), minted circa AD 4

Obv: Capricorn right; above, star

Rev: Scorpion; [star to below]

Ref: RPC v.1 3916

 

Always interesting to see what might be hidden in a little scorpion and 13mm of bronze.   With 2018 years of distance from its minting, there is lingering uncertainty about where, when and why it was issued.  For more on Scorpions see Adrienne Mayor's note in "Wonders and Marvels": "Scorpions in Antiquity".

 

Post coins with astrological signs, provincial coins of Augustus, AE coins from Cyprus or anything else you find interesting or entertaining.

Edited by Sulla80
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Mysia, Kyzikos    Augustus
27 BC - 14 AD, 17 mm 3.24 g Æ.    Bare head of Augustus, r. / ϹƐΒΑϹΤΟϹ, capricorn, l., with head turned back; monogram including ΖΚ. RPC I, 2245, F.W. Hasluck, NC 1906, 27, no. 3, AMC 1183

A very interesting article about the correlation between Augustus and the capricorn astrological sign:

https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02267867/document

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25 minutes ago, ambr0zie said:

A very interesting article about the correlation between Augustus and the capricorn astrological sign:

https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02267867/document

Thanks, @ambr0zie, a nice Capricorn from Kyzikos & the article adds for me: politically astute astrologers and date of conception to the potential reasons that Augustus used Capricorn as his sign.  This remains in my column of "no way to know" without some evidence....fun😉

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I know that article, @ambr0zie! I quoted the abstract, as well as another article by David Wray, in my write-up of my Augustus cistophoric tetradrachm:

Augustus, AR Cistophoric tetradrachm [ = three denarii], 27-26 BCE, Province of Asia [NW Asia Minor], Mysia, Pergamum[?] Mint. Obv. Bare head right, IMP•CAESAR downwards behind, lituus before / Rev. Capricorn* swimming right with head turned back to left, cornucopiae on its back, AVGVSTVS below; all within a laurel wreath tied in bow at bottom. RIC I Augustus 488 (2nd ed. 1984) [see http://numismatics.org/ocre/id/ric.1(2).aug.488]; RSC I Augustus 16a (3rd ed. 1978) (ill. p. 132); RPC I Online 2208 [see https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/1/2208]; Sear RCV I 1585; Sutherland Group IIIβ, nos 87–98a [see Sutherland, C.H.V., The Cistophori of Augustus (London, 1970)]; BMCRE I Augustus 698; BMCRR II (East) 287. 26 mm., 11.7 g. Purchased Feb. 2022 from Wessex Coins, UK.

547_augustus_cistophorus_coin.jpg

*Why did Augustus adopt Capricorn as his astrological sign, despite the fact that his birthday was purportedly 23 Sep. 63 BCE? For one theory, see Amelia Carolina Sparavigna (Dipartimento di Scienza Applicata e Tecnologia, Politecnico di Torino, Torino, Italy), Octavian Augustus at Apollonia and the statement of his astrological sign, 2019. ffhal-02267867f, https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02267867 (also available at https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02267867/document#:~:text=As a consequence, Octavian Augustus,was building with his empire) at p. 1:

ABSTRACT. The article discusses a possible link between the astrological sign of the Capricorn, that Octavian Augustus chose as his symbol, and the constellation in which the sun was at the beginning of the calendar of Julius Caesar, that is the First January of 45 BC. Augustus may have chosen this constellation as the symbol of the birth of a new age, which Caesar, his adoptive father, had established with the reform of the calendar. The astrological sign was assigned to Octavian when he was in Apollonia, in the same year of the reform, 45 BC. The “magnus gubernator” of the world was born. Under the sign of Capricorn, Octavian Augustus ruled the empire.

See also David Wray, “Astrology in Ancient Rome: Poetry, Prophecy and Power” (2001) (available at https://fathom.lib.uchicago.edu/1/777777122543/😞

“If Augustus' military struggle was over after the defeat of Mark Antony, he would never be finished with his ideological campaign to insert a monarchical principle into the still intact political structure of the Roman republic. One of the ways Augustus had been carrying on this ideological campaign was through the symbolism of images on coins and public monuments. Another way he had asserted his claim to sole power had been, remarkably enough, by publishing his own natal horoscope. We don't know precisely what form this publication took (I suspect it was probably an actual astrological chart), and we don't know the exact date of publication, but it seems to have been long before Augustus came to sole power. Our source is Suetonius' second century biography of Augustus, and Suetonius narrates these events as taking place just after Julius Caesar's assassination in 44 BCE:

‘In his retirement at Apollonia (a Greek colony in Illyria), Augustus went with his friend Agrippa to visit Theogenes the astrologer in his gallery on the roof. Agrippa, who first consulted the fates, had great and almost incredible things predicted of him. Augustus therefore did not wish to make known his nativity, and persisted for some time in the refusal, from a mixture of shame and fear, lest his own fate should be predicted as inferior to that of Agrippa. When Augustus had been persuaded, however, after much importunity, to declare his nativity, Theogenes started up from his seat and paid him adoration. Not long afterwards, Augustus was so confident of the greatness of his destiny that he published his horoscope, and struck a silver coin bearing the image of Capricorn, the sign under which he was born.’

There are a number of very interesting things about this story. The first and most obvious thing to say is that Augustus' visit to the astrologer Theogenes could be a complete fiction. Suetonius' biography includes portents and prophecies of every kind, starting with Augustus' birth in 63 BCE, and all of them pointing to Augustus' destiny as master of the world. Ancient literature is full of such prophecies, and in almost every case the prophecy (in the story) has to come true; that's simply the narrative logic by which stories of this kind work. Think of Sophocles' Oedipus, for example.

Every emperor's biography seems to have featured some omen or prediction of future greatness, so on one level there's no reason to attach any truth value to this story about Augustus and a Greek astrologer. On the other hand, there is nothing impossible or unlikely about an astrologer making a prediction of future greatness and power to Augustus as early as 44 BCE. Astrology was a part of Greek learning and culture, with a high prestige value. And more importantly, individual natal horoscopes tended to be associated in the Hellenistic world with individual power, and specifically with claims to kingship. Publishing your horoscope, in other words, could be read as a way of making a bid for royal power without having to say openly that you were making such a bid. The first "published" horoscope we possess dates from 62 BCE. It is preserved in the form of a relief carved into a rock on the top of Nimrudh Dagh in the Tarsus mountains, and it represents the coronation horoscope of King Antiochus I of Commagene.

Whatever form the so-called publication of his horoscope took, we can be completely certain that Augustus wanted the world to know what sign he was born under. Let me refer you to the three images you've seen in this article. The first one is a coin, one of several Augustan coins featuring Capricorn. You can see the name "Augustus," and the sea-goat holding the globe of the world. Augustus is Capricorn, in other words, and as the cosmocrator (master of the universe), he's got the whole world in his hands. While Augustus' rhetoric in words was putting forward an image of himself as "first among equals," the astrological imagery of this coin is putting forward an unmistakable bid for autocracy and even kingship. The next image is the most famous cameo portrait of Augustus, the so-called ‘Gemma Augustea.’ The woman placing the crown on Augustus' head almost certainly represents the oikoumene, a Greek word meaning "the inhabited world" (we know this Capricorn from similar representations on coins where the image bears a caption). Just behind Augustus' head is a round lozenge containing a small image of Capricorn the sea-goat. We have a fair number of other Capricorn artifacts that probably belonged to private individuals, and these have been found throughout the empire. My third image, another cameo, is an example. The young man swimming the waves is both riding on Capricorn and probably also to be identified with Capricorn. His features, shown in profile, are recognizably those of the young Augustus.

Why Capricorn? We don't really know. Augustus' sun sign was Libra. Capricorn was probably either his rising sign or, more likely, his Moon sign. Modern popular astrology, of the newspaper kind, is of course purely sun sign astrology, but the ancients tended to attach more importance to the Moon sign and rising sign. What particular qualities of the sea-goat made this sign especially appropriate for Augustus? Again, we don't know for sure. Possibly because Capricorn, then as now, was associated with stern moral authority. Possibly because Capricorn is the sign in which the sun passes through the winter solstice and is, in a sense, reborn--like the Roman republic, in Augustus' propaganda. Possibly because Capricorn, then as now, was associated with the planet Saturn. According to Roman mythology, Saturn had come to live in Italy when his son Jupiter had kicked him out of heaven, and the age in which Saturn ruled as king over Italy was a ‘golden age’ of paradise on earth. Augustus' reign was portrayed, in the poetry of Virgil and Horace as well as in Augustus' propaganda, as a return to that Saturnian golden age. Perhaps each of these reasons was a factor in Augustus' adoption of Capricorn as his emblem.”

Edited by DonnaML
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I have long wondered if this little Greek bronze refers to the zodiac sign of Leo.

[IMG]
Greek Ionia, Miletos.
AE Hemiobol, 3.35 g, 18.3 mm, 12 h.
Aeschylinos, magistrate, ca. 200 BC.
Obv: Apollo Didymeus standing right, holding small stag and bow; monogram below.
Rev: Lion seated right with head turned to left, star above, monogram right, ΑIΣXΥΛΙΝΟΥ in exergue.
Refs: Deppert 941-56 var; Marcellesi 56.

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Here's a Roman Republican coin that probably portrays the asterism (not an actual constellation) known in the USA as the Big Dipper and apparently known as "the Plough" in the UK:

Roman Republic, L. Lucretius Trio*, AR Denarius, 76 or 74 BCE.** Obv. Radiate head of Sol right / Rev. Crescent moon surrounded by seven 8-pointed stars (three above and two on each side); TRIO between horns of crescent***; L• LVCRET[I] below crescent.  Crawford 390/1, RSC I Lucretia 2 (ill.), BMCRR I Rome 3245 (ill. BMCRR III, Pl. XLII No. 11), Sear RCV I 321 (ill.), Sydenham 783, Harlan, RRM 1 Ch. 16 at pp. 98-100 [Michael Harlan, Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins, 81 BCE-64 BCE (Vol. I) (2012)]. 
18 mm., 3.83 g.****

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* All authorities agree that the moneyer, Lucius Lucretius Trio, is “not otherwise known” (Crawford I p. 404), except insofar as he was presumably a descendant of seor otherwise related to Cn. Lucretius Trio, moneyer ca. 136 BCE (the issuer of Crawford 237/1). See BMCRR I p. 396 fn. 2 (suggesting that Lucius may have been a grandson of the previous Lucretius Trio). Lucius’s one other coin depicts Neptune on the obverse and Cupid riding a dolpin on the reverse. (See Crawford 390/2, Sydenham 784, RSC I Lucretia 3 [ill.], Sear RCV I 322 [ill.]. BMCRR Rome 3247.) 

**See Crawford pp. 82 & 404 (citing the Roncofreddo hoard for the 76 BCE date), RSC I p. 59, BMCRR I p. 396 (same). But see C. Hersh and A. Walker, “The Mesagne Hoard,” ANSMN 29 (1984) (chart 2), dating L. Lucretius Trio’s coins to 74 BCE, which is the authors’ new terminus date for the Roncofreddo hoard. Harlan assigns this moneyer to an even later date, 72 BCE, for the reasons stated at RRM I p. 98. 

***The raised dot beneath “TRIO” is a centration dimple and is not part of the design. See the several discussions of such dimples on Coin Talk; see also https://www.ostia-antica.org/dict/topics/mint/mint03.htm: “On a number of Imperial coins from the 3rd and 4th Centuries AD, die "centration dimples" have been found. On one example of RIC 35 minted at Ostia, such a dimple can be clearly seen in the centre of the coin. On the die, this would have taken the form of a small depression. So, what is its function? My suggestion is that the depression is for one of the points of a pair of compasses that were used to 'score' the part of the die where the beading was to be engraved. So, why does the dimple appear on some coins and not on others? After the beads had been engraved, the central area of the coin would be 'filled in' with the rest of the image. In RIC 35, this area contains the raised legs and hooves of the two horses which were engraved over the dimple. On the coin below, that central area is not engraved so the dimple can still be seen.” For the same reason, no dimple is visible on the obverse of my Lucretius Trio denarius. 

****The authorities are almost uniform in interpreting the seven stars on the reverse of this coin as a pun or allusion referencing the moneyer’s cognomen, “Trio.” As such, they represent the seven stars of the septem Triones [plough-oxen] within the Ursus Major [Great Bear] constellation. See Crawford I p. 404, RSC I p. 60, H.A. Grueber, BMCRR I p. 396 fn. 3, Harlan, RRM I p. 100; E.E. Clain-Stefanelli, Life in Republican Rome on its Coinage (Smithsonian 1999), p. 93 (“The names of the stars were a ‘type parlant’ to the [cognomen] of the moneyer ‘Trio’”). The seven stars of the septem Triones form an asterism (not the same as a constellation!) currently known in the USA as the “Big Dipper,” and in the UK as the “Plough.” See https://oikofuge.com/septentrionate/.  

Although not mentioned in any of the authorities I’ve consulted, I believe that the separate placement of the cognomen “TRIO” within the crescent moon, surrounded by the seven stars -- rather than at the bottom of the reverse, together with and beneath the gens name LUCRETI, as on this moneyer’s other coin -- also supports the “pun” theory, by suggesting that the TRIO is intended to be seen as associated with, and as effectively identifying, the seven stars. 

The only contrary interpretation I have seen is in an article by Mike Markowitz entitled “The Star and Crescent on Ancient Coins,” Coin Week, Sept. 25, 2017 (https://coinweek.com/ancient-coins/star-crescent-ancient-coins/), stating as follows in discussing this coin: “The most visible cluster of seven stars is the Pleiades, important to ancient peoples because its appearance above the horizon marked Spring planting and Autumn harvest seasons. Occultations of the Pleaides by the moon occurred in October and December of 75 BCE, and would have been noted by Romans of that time.” [Footnotes omitted.]  Of course, this interpretation could not be correct if the traditional date of 76 BCE for this coin were accurate (see above). But leaving that aside, the author does not even mention the fact that all other authorities interpret the seven stars as a pun on the moneyer’s cognomen, let alone attempt to explain why he rejects that interpretation. In light of the absence of such an explanation -- and given how common puns on moneyers’ names were on Roman Republican coinage, as well as the weight of authority favoring the septem Triones theory, bolstered (in my opinion) by the separate placement of TRIO within the group of stars -- I am somewhat skeptical of Markowitz’s theory, at least as applied to this coin. (I express no opinion on the meaning of the seven stars and crescent moon depicted on the reverse of a number of Imperial denarii, including denarii of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna minted in Emesa more than two centuries later; see RIC IV-1 Septimius Severus 417 & 629. There are similar reverses on coins issued for Diva Faustina I and Diva Faustina II; see RIC III Antoninus Pius 1199, RIC III Marcus Aurelius 750.) 

Turning to the other design elements on this Lucretius Trio denarius in addition to the seven stars -- the radiate Sol on the obverse, and the crescent moon on the reverse surrounded by the stars -- this is apparently only the second Roman Republican denarius to depict a radiate Sol on the obverse; the first one also depicted a crescent moon and a group of stars on the reverse. (See Crawford 303/1, a denarius of Mn. Aquillius issued ca. 109/108 BCE with a radiate Sol facing right on the obverse, and a reverse depicting Luna in a biga, as well as a small crescent moon and four stars.) The traditional interpretation of the radiate Sol and crescent moon on the Lucretius Trio denarius is that these depictions, like the seven stars, are also a pun -- namely, an allusion to the moneyer’s gens, Lucretia, in the form of a pun on the word “Lux,” meaning “light.” See Grueber, BMCRR I p. 396 n. 3 (“The sun and moon which give the greater light (lux) are intended to refer to the gentile name, Lucretius”), RSC I p. 60 (same). 

However, Crawford does not adopt that interpretation of the depiction of Sol and the crescent moon on this coin, stating instead (see Vol. I pp. 404-405) that “the moon doubtless merely sets the scene,” and that the deptiction of Sol “seem[s] to be chosen to complement the . . . reverse type[].” The presence of Sol and a crescent moon (plus Luna herself) together with a group of four stars on the earlier denarius of Mn. Aquillius (cited above) -- for which no pun has been suggested as an interpretation -- would appear to support Crawford’s view that the design elements of Sol (sun) and crescent moon were chosen to accompany the seven stars on this Lucretius Trio coin for thematic reasons, i.e., because they complement each other, rather than as a pun. 

Harlan, by contrast, presents a rather convoluted argument (see RRM I pp. 99-100) for the proposition that the gens Lucretia had a Sabine origin, and, therefore, that “the sun and moon indicate Sabine origin rather than a pun on the name Lucretius.” He points to the fact that “Titus Tatius, the Sabine king who became joint ruler in Rome with Romulus, was the first to build an altar to the Sun and Moon in Rome.” (RRM I pp. 99-100, citing Dionysius of Halicarnassus, 2.50.3; Varro, De Ling Lat., 5.74.)  Part of the argument analogizes to an interpretation of the obverse depiction of Sol and the reverse depiction of a crescent moon and five stars on a later denarius of P. Clodius M.f. Turrinus, issued ca. 42 BCE (Crawford 494/21), as referring to the Sabine origin of the gens Claudia (see RSC I Claudia 17 at p. 32).  Harlan also suggests a connection between the gens Lucretius and the mountain Lucretilus in Sabine territory. (RRM I p. 100.)  However, as noted above, Harlan does accept the interpretation of the seven stars on the reverse as a pun on the moneyer’s cognomen Trio, representing the septem Triones.

 

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And here's my one coin from the Antoninus Pius Zodiac series; it's in rather poor condition, but at least the design is visible:

Antoninus Pius AE Drachm, Zodiac Series, Sun in Leo (day house), Year 8 (144-145 AD), Alexandria, Egypt Mint. Obv. Laureate head right, ΑYΤ Κ Τ ΑΙΛ ΑΔΡ ΑΝΤѠΝƐΙΝΟϹ ϹƐ-Β ƐYϹ (legend begins at 8:00) / Rev. Lion springing right; above to left, bust of Helios, radiate and draped; above to right, 8-pointed star; L H (Year 8 ) below.  RPC IV.4 Online 13547 (temp.) (see https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/4/13547 ); Emmett 1530.8 (ill. p. 74A); BMC 16 Alexandria 1084 at p. 127 (ill. Pl. 12); Milne 1813-1815 at p. 44 (No. 1815 has same obv. legend break as this coin, i.e., ϹƐ-Β ƐVϹ); Dattari (Savio) 2968; K&G 35.278 (ill. p. 173); Köln (Geissen) 1495.  Ex. Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger, Auction 428, Lot 555, 28 Apr. 2021; ex. Heidelberger Münzhandlung Herbert Grün e.K., Auction 79, Lot 1284, 10 Nov. 2020.* 33 mm., 20.95 g.

 Ant Pius zodiac Helios & lion photo from 2021 Busso P. nachf. auction.jpg

*See Classical Numismatic Group, Triton XXI Catalog (“The Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection of the Coins of Roman Alexandria,” Jan 9. 2018), Lot 124, p. 68 (available at https://www.cngcoins.com/Coin.aspx?CoinID=349280):

“The Great Sothic Cycle was a calendrical cycle based on the heliacal rising in July of the star Sirius (known to the Greeks as Sothis) and lasting approximately 1460 years. According to ancient Egyptian mythology, in a Golden Age, the beginning of the flooding of the Nile coincided exactly with the rising of Sirius, which was reckoned as the New Year. Only once every 1460 years did Sirius rise at exactly the same time. Thus, the coincidence of this along with the concurrent beginning of the flooding of the Nile gave the event major cosmological significance by heralding not just the beginning of a new year, but the beginning of a new eon. This event also was thought to herald the appearance of the phoenix, a mythological bird which was reborn every 500 to 1000 years out of its own ashes. According to one version of the myth, each new phoenix embalmed its old ashes in an egg of myrrh, which it then deposited in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis. So important was the advent of the new Great Sothic Cycle, both to the realignment of the heavens and its signaling of the annual flooding of the Nile, that the Egyptians celebrated it in a five-day festival, which emphasized the important cosmological significance. 

In the third year of the reign of Antoninus Pius (AD 139/40), a new Great Sothic Cycle began. To mark this event, the mint of Alexandria struck an extensive series of coinage, especially in large bronze drachms, each related in some astrological way to the reordering of the heavens during the advent of the new Great Sothic Cycle. This celebration would continue throughout Pius’ reign, with an immense output of coinage during the eighth year of his reign in Egypt, which included this coin type, part of the Zodiac series.” 

I have seen no explanation of why it took five years to issue this series after the beginning of the new Cycle. It should be noted that the Zodiac series is based not on the ancient Egyptian “Decan” system of 36 star groups (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decan), but on the 12 Greek (originally Babylonian) signs, and depicts associated Greco-Roman deities -- although the additional “Zodiac Wheel” coin (see Triton XXI catalog, Lot 124) depicts Isis and Serapis at the center of the reverse. 

In total, according to Emmett, there are 16 basic drachm types in the Antoninus Pius Zodiac Series, all issued in Year 8 of his reign, listed and depicted in Emmett at p. 74A: Ares (Mars) in Aries [ram] (Emmett 1461.8), Aphrodite (Venus) in Taurus [bull] (E. 1450.8), Hermes (Mercury) in Gemini [with the twins represented by Herakles and Apollo rather than the Dioscuri] (E.1576.8), Selene (Moon) in Cancer [crab] (E.1681.8), Helios (Sun) in Leo [this coin] (E.1530.8), Hermes (Mercury) in Virgo [Demeter] (E.1575.8), Aphrodite (Venus) in Libra [female holding scales] (E.1452.8), Ares (Mars) in Scorpio [scorpion] (E.1460.8), Zeus (Jupiter) in Sagittarius [centaur as archer] (E.1693.8), Kronos (Saturn) in Capricorn [capricorn] (E.1598.8), Kronos (Saturn) in Aquarius [youth swimming with amphora] (E.1451.8), and Zeus (Jupiter) in Pisces [two fish] (E.1692.8). There are four additional coins variously depicting Helios and Selene, Serapis and Isis, or Serapis by himself in the center, surrounded by either one circular band showing the Zodiac, or two bands showing respectively the Zodiac and the five planets together with the Sun and Moon (Emmett 1705-1708).

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, DonnaML said:

And here's my one coin from the Antoninus Pius Zodiac series; it's in rather poor condition, but at least the design is visible

These are hard coins to find in any condition - yours is a nice coin.  The Cistophoric tetradrachm & TRIO also very nice.

Here are two Roman provincial Capricorns - from later Roman masters of the universe

image.png.8908f5e80985d332c1d065db3f80739f.png

Marcus Opellius Macrinus, 217-218 AD, Parium, Mysia, AE (22.5mm, 7.09g)
Obv: IMP C M OPE SEV MACRINVS, bust laureate, draped, cuirassed right, border of dots
Rev: Capricorn right, extending front legs to hold globe, cornucopia above back; C G I H P below, border of dots
Ref: AMC 13405, RPC Online missing?

image.png.ca0d0a13228890e78d7e3bf66896e640.png

Mysia, Parium, Valerian I, AD 253-260, AE 21
Obv: IMP C P LIC VALERIANVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust of Valerian I right
Ref: ethnic , C G I H P, beneath capricorn right, with globe between hooves and cornucopia over shoulder

What is the C G I H P? The "H" was added for Hadrian, to recognize his generosity to the city of Parium, with the "H" added it reads Colonia Gemella Iulia Hadriana Pariana. Gemella because Parium and Lampsacus were founded together as twin colonies (see CGIL RPC I 2270). Under Hadrian's rule, Parion saw heavy investments in construction.

Edited by Sulla80
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Great OP-coin(s), Sulla ... sweet!

Oh, and amazing coins from the rest of the coin-gang as well ... Donna, I love your Leo coin (I'm a Leo)

Ummm, I have a zodiac addition ... I had a Taurus example (man, the A-Pius Zodiac coins were amongst my absolute coin-favs)

 

Antoninus Pius Group big a.jpg

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Me:

I was born in Western Zodiac in July, so I am Cancer or the Crab:

 

image.png.a155c4e24c94529f31a9fe9aa04be562.png

Sicily Akragas AE Onkia 16mm 3.8g 425-406 BCE Eagle r fish fly - Crab conch SNG ANS 1062 var

 

In the Chinese Zodiac, I am the year of the PIG!

 

image.png.fb859611bd235ef7237859710572104d.png

RR M Volteius Mf AR Denarius 78 BCE 18mm 3.96g Hd Hercules R lion skin headdress - Erymanthian boar Cr 385-2 ex @Steve SteveX6

 

Edited by Alegandron
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The Dioscuri (Gemini twins)

9taqaaNCTqaEugFedl7p_9H16tX0.jpg

AR denarius, 187-175 BC, 21mm, 3.45gm. Winged head of Roma right / Dioscuri on horseback right

HyrmReBTThuBSvXQqWJa_UUpqHWe.jpg

LUCIUS MEMMIUS AR silver denarius. Struck 109-108 BC. Bust of Apollo Vejovis right, wearing oak-wreath; before, XVI monogram of value before, thunderbolt underneath. Reverse - The Dioscuri standing facing between their horses, each holding spear; L MEMMI in exergue. 19mm, 3.9g. RCV 181

 

My birthday is on May 16th, so I’m a Taurus:

slfJDkN4TdCezdmgBf9v_8xFqCKE.jpg

Obv: I S M R, Head of Juno Sospita right, wearing goat skin. Rev: L THORIVS / BALBVS, Bull charging right; A above. Crawford 316/1.

HfbnRdySYC9cdR938dPg_t381jiF.jpg

AUGUSTUS 27 BC - AD 14 AR Denarius. 3.51g, 19.3mm MINTED: Lugdunum (Lyon) mint, 15 BC REF: RIC I 167a; Lyon 19; RSC 137 OBVERSE: AVGVSTVS DIVI F, bare head right. REVERSE: Bull butting right, left forefoot raised, lashing his tail; IMP • X in exergue.

2tSEeQiFRtWGVZSooBVp_jXUzTUr.jpg

Ancient Greek LUCANIA Thourioi (Thurium). Circa 350-300 BC AR Nomos Head of Athena right, wearing Attic helmet with Skylla thowing stone / Bull butting right; ΣΩ above; in exergue, fish right 7.80 g, 20-21 mm, silver. Toned, struck with worn dies, small graffito on reverse References: HN Italy 1820; SNG ANS 1076; HGC I, 1262

p59d6MiZQRik20uEz5H2_71CC3B43-DBE1-4660-

Greece, Thessaly, Larissa, 400-360 BC, AR Drachm, Youth wrestling bull left/Rev. horse prancing right, 5.77g BMC 39

EK1QCBhqQl2CCqVEErnG_8Tkm2O5.jpg

Ancient Greek EUBOIA Euboian League. Circa 304-290 BC AR Drachm Head of the nymph Euboia right / Head of bull right; EY above, lyre to right 3.30 g, 16 mm, silver, toned, rough area on obverse References: SNG Alpha Bank, Greece 6, 984; HGC 4, 1420

Edited by MrMonkeySwag96
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I've always liked this provincial struck under Rhoemetalces I which has a little capricorn playing with its globe before the busts of Augustus and Livia..

 

1382615215_Rhoemetalces(2).jpg.db59bcef0bd581ad4e142e0d61cd199b.jpg

KINGS OF THRACE. Rhoemetalces I
AE28. 13.51g, 28mm.
THRACE, uncertain mint, late 1st century BC - AD 12. RPC I 1708; Youroukova 182-4.
O: BAΣIΛEΩΣ POIMHTAΛKOY, Jugate busts of Rhoemetalces, diademed, and Pythadoris, right.
R: KAIΣAPOΣ ΣEBAΣTOY, Jugate busts of Augustus, laureate, and Livia, right; to right, capricorn right, holding globe.

 

And another Zodiac series drachm.... this one depicting Mars in Aries.

1311184090_06AntoninusPius-DrachmZodiacAriesinMars4274.JPG.3b6b77a8daec5b4807a2bc19e2812293.JPG

ANTONINUS PIUS
AE Drachm. 25.25g, 35.7mm.
EGYPT, Alexandria, RY 8 (144/5). Dattari (Savio) 2958; Emmett 1461.8; K&G 35.267; RPC IV.4 online temp 13540.
O: Laureate head right.
R: Zodiac Series, Mars in Aries: Ram (Aries) leaping right, head to left; to upper left, helmeted and cuirassed bust of Ares (Mars) to right; above, star; L H (date) below.

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On 6/26/2022 at 5:29 AM, zumbly said:

I've always liked this provincial struck under Rhoemetalces I which has a little capricorn playing with its globe before the busts of Augustus and Livia..

 

1382615215_Rhoemetalces(2).jpg.db59bcef0bd581ad4e142e0d61cd199b.jpg

KINGS OF THRACE. Rhoemetalces I
AE28. 13.51g, 28mm.
THRACE, uncertain mint, late 1st century BC - AD 12. RPC I 1708; Youroukova 182-4.
O: BAΣIΛEΩΣ POIMHTAΛKOY, Jugate busts of Rhoemetalces, diademed, and Pythadoris, right.
R: KAIΣAPOΣ ΣEBAΣTOY, Jugate busts of Augustus, laureate, and Livia, right; to right, capricorn right, holding globe.

 

And another Zodiac series drachm.... this one depicting Mars in Aries.

1311184090_06AntoninusPius-DrachmZodiacAriesinMars4274.JPG.3b6b77a8daec5b4807a2bc19e2812293.JPG

ANTONINUS PIUS
AE Drachm. 25.25g, 35.7mm.
EGYPT, Alexandria, RY 8 (144/5). Dattari (Savio) 2958; Emmett 1461.8; K&G 35.267; RPC IV.4 online temp 13540.
O: Laureate head right.
R: Zodiac Series, Mars in Aries: Ram (Aries) leaping right, head to left; to upper left, helmeted and cuirassed bust of Ares (Mars) to right; above, star; L H (date) below.

Nice Aries coin. I bid on one in a past Leu auction but didn't win. I was born under that sign, so it is of some interest, granted I think astrology is poppycock, though certainly it is an old form of divination.

 

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On 6/26/2022 at 8:29 AM, zumbly said:

I've always liked this provincial struck under Rhoemetalces I which has a little capricorn playing with its globe before the busts of Augustus and Livia..

 

1382615215_Rhoemetalces(2).jpg.db59bcef0bd581ad4e142e0d61cd199b.jpg

KINGS OF THRACE. Rhoemetalces I
AE28. 13.51g, 28mm.
THRACE, uncertain mint, late 1st century BC - AD 12. RPC I 1708; Youroukova 182-4.
O: BAΣIΛEΩΣ POIMHTAΛKOY, Jugate busts of Rhoemetalces, diademed, and Pythadoris, right.
R: KAIΣAPOΣ ΣEBAΣTOY, Jugate busts of Augustus, laureate, and Livia, right; to right, capricorn right, holding globe.

 

And another Zodiac series drachm.... this one depicting Mars in Aries.

1311184090_06AntoninusPius-DrachmZodiacAriesinMars4274.JPG.3b6b77a8daec5b4807a2bc19e2812293.JPG

ANTONINUS PIUS
AE Drachm. 25.25g, 35.7mm.
EGYPT, Alexandria, RY 8 (144/5). Dattari (Savio) 2958; Emmett 1461.8; K&G 35.267; RPC IV.4 online temp 13540.
O: Laureate head right.
R: Zodiac Series, Mars in Aries: Ram (Aries) leaping right, head to left; to upper left, helmeted and cuirassed bust of Ares (Mars) to right; above, star; L H (date) below.

I have to wonder if perhaps the juxtaposition of Ares and Aries was intended as some sort of pun.

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The ram above Tyche is the sign of the zodiac for the month in which Antiochia was founded.

 

normal_Philippus_II_05_0.jpg.f82256cb228edbfe5d8a8e2e0e03bab3.jpg

Philip II (247-249)
Syria, Seleucis and Pieria: Antiochia ad Orontem
Obv.: AYTOK K M IOYΛI ΦIΛIΠΠOC CEB, Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust r.
Rev.: ANTIOXEΩΝ ΜΗΤPΟ KΟΛΩN / Δ - E / S - C,
Turreted, draped, and veiled bust of Tyche r. above, ram leaping r., head l. star below
AE, 14.86g, 29.1mm
Ref: McAlee 1073/2

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