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Isis and her Son, Horus


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A coin reverse I have wanted for some time. Common but other coins were available and this one got left behind.

Great mother Isis, the goddess of healing and magic, was crucial to ancient Egyptian religious beliefs. She is known today by her Greek name Isis; however, the ancient Egyptians called her Aset. Her name translates to “Queen of the Throne” which is reflected in her headdress,


Isis nursing Horus, a sculpture from the 7th century BCE.

According to the most widely held myth of Horus's birth, he was the son of Isis and Osiris. Isis conceived him by magic after her brother and her husband Osiris had been murdered by the evil Seth. Isis hid herself in the marshes of the Nile River delta and gave birth to Horus.
The god Horus was the archetypal divine child, a special form of an important god for the specific needs of children and their parents. Child gods and their mythical exploits could also help humanize the sometimes remote and forbidding gods that the Egyptians worshipped.
Horus is represented as a naked boy with his finger to his mouth, a hieroglyph attends to this. Misunderstanding this gesture, the later Greeks and Roman poets made Harpocrates, their version of Horus, the god of silence and secrecy.


Isis, Serapis and their child Harpocrates (Louvre)

Onto the coin, which arrived this morning;

Julia Domna AR Denarius.
IVLIA AVGVSTA, draped bust right / SAECVLI FELICITAS, Isis, wearing polos on head, standing right, left foot on prow, holding Horus; behind, rudder. RIC 577, RSC 174, BMC 75
This variety differs to RIC 645 due to the two ends of the ship. They are of differing heights on RIC 577 as opposed same height on RIC 645.


Please feel free to post any Isis and Horus.

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Stunning example of a very fun type! Both the portrait and reverse are excellent. 

Here is my second rung, but still cute enough to take to the dance, of the type:


Julia Domna (AD 193-217). AR denarius (20mm, 3.30 gm, 1h). VF, flan crack. Rome, AD 200-207. IVLIA-AVGVSTA, draped bust of Julia Domna right, seen from front, hair braided in waves and tucked in large chignon at back of head / SAECVLI F-ELICITAS, Isis, wearing peaked headdress, standing right, left foot on prow, holding the infant horus at her breast; to left, altar, against which rests a rudder. RIC IV.I (Septimius Severus) 577. Ex: Dr Elkowicz Jan 2021 "An issue of aurei, denarii and sesterces in the name of the Empress Julia Domna appears on the reverse Isis. The legend SAECVLI FELICITAS invites to consider this strike as the indication of a new era of prosperity thanks to the Severan family back from Egypt. Already attached to the Antonine dynasty by the will of Septimius Severus, Divi Marci filius since 194, it promises stability and order to the Empire."

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Posted (edited)

One of my own favorite themes! Some examples of coins and artifacts, beginning with my own specimen of @expat's coin:

Julia Domna, AR Denarius ca. 201 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Draped bust right, hair waved vertically and fastened in large bun in back, IVLIA AVGVSTA / Rev. Isis, wearing polos on head, draped, standing three-quarters right, head right, holding the nursing infant Horus in left arm against left breast, with her right hand holding a wreath or other ring-shaped object against her chest, her left foot against prow of galley, right, and her left knee bent with Horus resting on it; to left of Isis, rudder rests against altar; SAECVLI FELICITAS.  RIC IV-1 577 (p. 170), RSC III 174 (ill.), Sear RCV II 6606, BMCRE 166. 18x20 mm., 3.35 g., 6 h. Ex. A.K. Collection; ex. CNG Triton XX Auction, Jan. 10, 2017, part of Lot # 614, No. E027.


Hadrian, AE Diobol, Year 16 (131/132 AD), Alexandria, Egypt Mint. Obv. Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from rear, ΑΥΤ ΚΑΙ - ΤΡΑΙ ΑΔΡΙΑ ϹƐΒ / Rev. Isis as mother, crowned with disk and horns, seated right on throne, offering left breast to infant Harpocrates (Horus-as-child) sitting on her knee crowned with skhent and holding lotus stalk in left hand; on corners of back of throne, two hawks/falcons (representing Horus), facing each other, each wearing skhent, L - IϚ [= Year 16] across fields. Emmett 1138.16 [Emmett, Keith, Alexandrian Coins (Lodi, WI, 2001)]; RPC [Roman Provincial Coinage] Vol. III 5813 (2015); RPC III Online at https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/3/5813;  BMC 16 Alexandria 762 at p. 90 & PL. XVI [Poole, Reginald Stuart, A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Vol. 16, Alexandria (London, 1892)]; Dattari (Savio) 1749 [Savio, A. ed., Catalogo completo della collezione Dattari Numi Augg. Alexandrini (Trieste, 2007)]; Köln 1046 [Geissen, A., Katalog alexandrinischer KaisermünzenKöln, Band II (Hadrian-Antoninus Pius) (Cologne, 1978, corrected reprint 1987)]; K&G 32.530 [Kampmann, Ursula & Ganschow, Thomas, Die Münzen der römischen Münzstätte Alexandria  (2008)]; cf. Milne 1345-1346 at p. 33 [Isis seated left*] [Milne, J.G., Catalogue of Alexandrian Coins (Oxford 1933, reprint with supplement by Colin M. Kraay, 1971)]. Purchased from Shick Coins, Ashdod, Israel, Dec. 2020; Israel Antiquities Authority Export License No. 42927, 02/02/2021. 23 mm., 8.6 g.


*The description in Milne may be erroneous, since neither Emmett nor BMC 16 lists any diobols for Hadrian with Isis seated left holding Harpocrates, whether in Year 16 or any other year.

Antoninus Pius Billon Tetradrachm, Year 23 (159-160 AD), Alexandria, Egypt Mint. Obv. Laureate and draped bust right, ΑΝΤѠΝΙΝΟϹ - ϹƐΒ ƐVϹƐΒ (beginning on upper right) / Rev. Isis crowned with disk, horns, and plumes, seated right offering her right breast to crowned Harpocrates [“Horus-as-Child”] seated on her lap; Harpocrates extends his right hand towards her and holds lotus flower in left hand; crowned falcon [Horus] perched right on left end of back of throne, L -  Γ [G] /K [= Year 23] across field.  Emmett 1402.23; Milne 2405 at p. 57 [Milne, J.G., Catalogue of Alexandrian Coins (Oxford 1933, reprint with supplement by Colin M. Kraay, 1971)]; Dattari (Savio) 2257; RPC IV.4 Online, 13938 (temporary) (see https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/4/13938); Köln (Geissen) 1842 [same dies, see RPC Online 13938 at the link provided, Example 3]; Sear RCV II 4377; K&G 35.810.  21x28 mm., 11.67 g. Ex. Harlan J. Berk, Ltd., 168th Buy or Bid Sale, March 16, 2010Lot 475.


Egypt, green faience amulet depicting Isis, wearing “stepped throne” crown (in form of hieroglyph for Isis's name, Queen or Mother of Throne)*, right breast bare, seated on elaborate chair with cross-hatched/basket pattern on sides; on her lap, her son the infant Horus (a/k/a Harpocrates, “Horus-the-child”), wearing sidelock resting upwards against her body; her left hand holds him up behind his head, with her right hand about to offer her breast to him. Late/Ptolemaic Period, ca. 600-30 BCE. 60.3 mm. (2 3/8”) H, 30 mm D. Purchased 1/10/2021, Explorer Ancient Art, NYC (Mark Goodstein), ex. Don Wonder Collection, NJ (before 1981).

Isis- Infant Horus amulet photo 1.jpg

Isis- Infant Horus amulet photo 2.jpg

Detail Isis- Infant Horus amulet photo 1 (2).jpg

Detail Isis- Infant Horus amulet photo 2 (2).jpg

*See, e.g., https://egyptianmuseum.org/deities-isis (Isis "is known today by her Greek name Isis; however, the ancient Egyptians called her Aset. Her name translates to 'Queen of the Throne' which is reflected in her headdress, which is typically a throne");https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isis ("The hieroglyphic writing of her name incorporates the sign for a throne, which Isis also wears on her head as a sign of her identity"); https://www.metmuseum.org/about-the...n-art/temple-of-dendur-50/cult-and-decoration (the fourth photo down shows a relief from the Temple of Dendur, depicting Isis wearing, on top of her headdress, "a small stepped hieroglyph that depicts a throne and was used to write Isis's name"); http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/asianartglossary.html (referencing "[t]he stepped-throne hieroglyph of Isis").


Small amulets and statuetttes/figurines of Isis nursing (or about to nurse) the infant Horus were very common in Ancient Egypt during the Late Period, most notably in bronze (and wearing the sun disk and horns), but also in faience, and wearing Isis's stepped throne crown, as on my artifact. See the examples from the Brooklyn Museum, the Louvre, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/117027https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/statuette-isis-nursing-horus; and https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/545969 . To quote from the Met's description:

"In the Late Period, the popularity of this important goddess dramatically increased. She is nearly always depicted in anthropomorphic form, standing or seated on a throne. This statuette shows the goddess in her most beloved pose, nursing her son Horus (known also as the lactans pose). Other goddesses sometimes nurse Horus or other child gods, but Isis is preeminent among them in this role. She wears the horned crown that by the Late Period she had adopted from the goddess Hathor, as well as the vulture headdress that emphasized the role of goddesses as royal mothers. Horus, meanwhile, wears an amulet on his chest, a common feature for child gods.

The large number of Isis statuettes in this particular pose demonstrate some of the qualities for which Isis was most valued in the first millennium BC: her role as a life-giver and protector. These types of statuettes were very common, dedicated not just to Isis cults, but seemingly to many temples and shrines, usually in association with Osiris and the child god Horus."

From the Louvre:

"During later periods, Egyptians produced many small bronze statuettes of their deities, which they then gave as tributes during pilgrimages to holy sites. Thousands of them have been found in concealed areas, where they were placed to make room for others. This image of Isis nursing her child only appeared during the last millennium BC. Prior to this time, this role was attributed to other goddesses, such as Mut and Hathor, the Celestial Cow, also called the Temple of Horus, whose cow horns were usually attributed to Isis at the time. This is a good example of a common image that was reproduced in varying degrees of craftsmanship. It is difficult to accurately determine the geographical provenance or the precise date for most of these objects, as Isis was viewed as the universal mother from an early time."


Egypt, blue-green faience Amulet of the Triad, Horus in center flanked by his mother Isis on right (with stepped throne crown) and his aunt Nebhat/Nephthys on left (crown in shape of basket/house hieroglyph), 26th Dynasty, ca. 600 BCE. 32 mm. H x 29 mm. W. Purchased 2/6/1982, Harmer Rooke, NYC.



Edited by DonnaML
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