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A Drunk Panther?

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Being a cat dad, I love the iconography of my latest coin's reverse - a panther with paws resting on a wine cup. Is he drinking it? The seller noted: 'It was commonly thought in antiquity that panthers were fond of wine and that they could be captured by setting a bowl of it out and waiting until they had drunk to excess.' I could not find any source for this. At any rate, the animal depicted on the reverse is the legendary creature associated with Dionysus and was commonly featured in ancient art.


Æ23, 5.70g
Nikaia (Bithynia) mint, M. Plancius Varus Proconsul
Rev: ΕΠΙ ΜΑΡΚΟΥ ΠΛΑΝΚΙΟΥ ΟΥΑΡΟΥ ΑΝΘΥΠΑΤΟΥ; Panther std. l., with paw raised on cantharus
RPC 629 (8 spec.).
Acquired from Petasos Coins, May 2024.

Nikaia (Nicaea) in Bithynia produced a small issue of bronze coins for Vespasian under the authority of proconsul M. Plancius Varus. Three different denominations were struck, ranging from 1 to 4 assaria. This 1 assarion features a panther drinking (?) from a cantharus. The panther was the favourite mount of Dionysus the god of wine and fertility.

In hand.


Please feel free to share your panthers (leopards).

Thank you for looking!

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Great coin and interesting explanation! 

Here is my coin with a  leopard/panther in a similar dancing  pose


15,5 mm, 2,91 g.
Septimius Severus 193-211 AD. AR denarius. Rome. 197 AD.
[L SEPT SEV PERT] AVG IMP VIIII, laureate head r. / LIBERO - PATRI, Liber (or Bacchus) standing front, head l., r. hand on head, holding thyrsus in l. hand at feet l., leopard (or panther).
RIC 99; RSC 304; BMCRE 222 (Wars of the Succession).

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Lovely coin, @David Atherton, with a really interesting (unique?) reverse design. There is a lot of fun to be had in the Roman provincial series! I have three coins with Dionysus and his panther.

Faustina Jr., 147-175 CE.
Roman provincial Æ 9.06 g, 24.7 mm, 7 h.
Thrace, Anchialus, 147-149 CE.
Obv: ΦΑVCΤΕΙΝΑ ΝΕΑ CΕΒΑCΤΗ, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
Rev: ΑNΧΙΑΛΕΩΝ, Dionysus standing left, holding cantharus and thyrsus; panther at feet, left.
Refs: AMNG 434; RPC 4525; Varbanov 90; BMC --; SNG Copenhagen --.

Julia Domna, 193-217 CE.
Roman provincial Æ tetrassarion, 13.76 g, 26 mm.
Moesia Inferior, Nicopolis ad Istrum; Legate Aurelius Gallus, 201-204 CE.
Obv: ΙΟVΛΙΑ ΔΟ-ΜΝΑ CΕΒΑ, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
Rev: VΠ ΑVΡ ΓΑΛΛΟV-ΝΙΚΟΠΟΛΙΤΩΝ | ΠΡΟC ΙCΤΡΟ, Dionysus standing left,
naked except for boots, holding bunch of grapes and thyrsus, panther at foot left.
Refs: AMNG I 1456; Varbanov 2897; H&J, Nikopolis corr. (rev. legend); Mionnet Sup. 2, p. 134, 457 and pl. III, no 6.

Septimius Severus, 193-211 CE.
Roman AR Denarius, 3.22 g, 16.5 mm, 11 h.
Rome Mint, 194 CE.
Obv: L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP III, laureate head, right.
Rev: LIBERO PATRI, Liber standing facing, head left, cloak over left shoulder, holding oenochoe and thyrsus; at feet left, panther standing left, catching drips from the jug.
Refs: RIC 32; BMCRE 64-65; Cohen 301; RCV 6307; Hill 84.

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3 hours ago, David Atherton said:

I could not find any source for this.

For the Greek author Oppian [2nd century AD](Cynégétique, IV, 320-353; Aymard 1951, p. 463-464), in “Libya”, that is to say in North Africa, a curious process was used to capture panthers: making the animal drunk. For this, the hunters chose a small water point in the middle of a vast desert region and placed basins of wine there. All that remained was to tie up the sleeping animal…

Edited by Ocatarinetabellatchitchix
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Here's my Dionysos with panther pal:


Macedon, Koinon of Macedon
Pseudo-autonomous issue, time of Gordian III, 238-244 CE
Diassarion AE 26 mm, 9.11 g, 2 h
ΑΛEΞΑΝΔΡΟY Head of Alexander the Great to right, wearing crested Attic helmet decorated with a griffin leaping right.
Rev. KOINON MAKEΔONΩN B NE Dionysos standing left, holding kantharos over panther in right hand and filleted thyrsos in left.
RPC VII.2 286

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Posted · Supporter

A panther post demands inclusion of this poem:

The panther is like a leopard,
Except it hasn't been peppered.
Should you behold a panther crouch,
Prepare to say Ouch.
Better yet, if called by a panther,
Don't anther.

Ogden Nash

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14 hours ago, Ocatarinetabellatchitchix said:

For the Greek author Oppian [2nd century AD](Cynégétique, IV, 320-353; Aymard 1951, p. 463-464), in “Libya”, that is to say in North Africa, a curious process was used to capture panthers: making the animal drunk. For this, the hunters chose a small water point in the middle of a vast desert region and placed basins of wine there. All that remained was to tie up the sleeping animal…

Fascinating! Thank you so much for the citation!

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A wonderful coin, @David Atherton!

Here are my two examples of Dionysos/Bacchus with his panther -- really a leopard, given that the spots are visible on both:

Lydia, Philadelphia, AE 17, Late 2nd/Early 1st Centuries BCE, Hermippos, son of Hermogenes, archiereus [magistrate]. Obv. Head of young Dionysos right, wearing ivy-wreath and band across forehead, [Φ]ΙΛΑΔΕΛΦΕ[ΩΝ] vertically behind / Rev. Spotted pantheress [leopard] walking left, with head turned back to right, cradling thyrsos bound with fillet (ribbon) against left shoulder, right foreleg raised; ΑΡΧΙΕΡ-ΕΥΣ above, ΕΡΜΙΠΠΟΣ in exergue. Seaby II 4720 [Sear, D., Greek Coins and their Values, Vol. II, Asia & Africa (Seaby 1979), at p. 430 (ill.)]; BMC 22 Lydia 16 [Head, B.V. A Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum, Lydia (London 1901) at p. 189]; SNG Von Aulock II 3057 [Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Deutschland, Sammlung Hans Von Aulock, Vol. 2: Caria, Lydia, Phrygia, Lycia, Pamphylia  (Berlin 1962)]; SNG Copenhagen 340 [Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Copenhagen, The Royal Collection of Coins and Medals, Danish National Museum, Part 27, Lydia Part 1 (Copenhagen 1947)]; Imhoof-Blumer 8 [Imhoof-Blumer, Friedrich, Lydische Stadtmünzen, neue Untersuchungen (Leipzig 1897) at pp. 114-115]; Mionnet IV No. 536 [Mionnet, Théodore E., Description de Médailles antiques grecques et romaines, Vol. IV, Lydie (Paris 1809) at p. 98]. 17 mm., 5.02 g.  [With old collector’s envelope.]


Roman Republic/Imperatorial Period, C. Vibius Varus, AR Denarius, 42 BCE, Rome Mint. Obv. Head of Bacchus (or Liber)* right, wearing earring and wreath of ivy and grapes / Rev. Spotted panther [leopard]** springing left towards garlanded altar on top of which lies a bearded mask of Silenus or Pan,*** and against which leans a thyrsus with fillet (ribbon); C • VIBIVS in exergue, VARVS upwards to right. Crawford 494/36, RSC I Vibia 24, Sear RCV I 496, Sear Roman Imperators 192 (ill. p. 116), Sydenham 1138, BMCRR 4295. 17 mm., 3.60 g.  Purchased from Edward J. Waddell, Ltd., Nov. 2020; ex Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG, Auction 83, May 20, 2015, Lot 83; ex Frank Sternberg Auction 17, Zurich, May 1986, Lot 519.


*The identification of the obverse head as Bacchus or Liber is essentially immaterial. See Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London, 1990) at p. 33 (entry for “Bacchus”): “For the Romans . . . . [Bacchus] was generally identified with the Italian deity Liber, whose name is probably derived from the same root as the word ‘libation,’ suggesting that in Italy he was an earth or vegetation spirit who could be worshipped by pouring offerings upon the ground. . . . Bacchus appears rarely upon Roman imperial coins (and when he is given a name, he is called Liber). He is shown as a youthful male figure, nude or partly draped, perhaps with a wreath of ivy leaves. He may bear a thyrsus and be accompanied by Ariadne, a bacchant or maenad, or a panther.”

 ** There is little doubt that the big cats generally referred to as “panthers” in ancient coin reference works are actually leopards (or, occasionally, cheetahs), particularly when their spots are visible, as on this coin. There is, of course, no such separate species as a panther; even a black panther is simply a leopard (or, in the Western Hemisphere, a jaguar or cougar) with black fur obscuring the spots  The classical world was well aware that pantherae usually had spots. See the many ancient mosaics and other art depicting Dionysos/Bacchus with a leopard, such as this mosaic from the House of the Masks in Delos, from ca. 100 BCE, in the Archaeological Museum of Delos:


See https://www.pinterest.dk/pin/441423200974714028/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosaics_of_Delos#House_of_the_Masks. See also the following passage from Pliny the Elder’s Natural History at 8.23, concerning the spots on the panthera:


 “The spots of the panther are like small eyes, upon a white ground. It is said that all quadrupeds are attracted in a most wonderful manner by their odour, while they are terrified by the fierceness of their aspect; for which reason the creature conceals its head, and then seizes upon the animals that are attracted to it by the sweetness of the odour. It is said by some, that the panther has, on the shoulder, a spot which bears the form of the moon; and that, like it, it regularly increases to full, and then diminishes to a crescent. At present, we apply the general names of varia and pardus (which last belongs to the males), to all the numerous species of this animal, which is very common in Africa and Syria.”

For a detailed discussion of this passage in Pliny, and the terms panthera and pardus in general as used in the classical world, see the dissertation by Benjamin Moser of the University of Western Ontario, entitled The Ethnozoological Tradition: Identifying Exotic Animals in Pliny's Natural History (available at https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2566&context=etd), Chapter 3.1 at pp. 86-96, “Identification of the Panthera and Pardus.” (Moser argues, among other things, that while the term pardus -- from which the word leopard derives, after being combined with “leo” -- was used in the ancient world in Pliny’s time to refer only to male pantherae,  the term varia “was not reserved for females but [was] just another word to describe the panthera which arose from the spotted nature of these cats.”)

 ***The mask has more frequently been identified with Pan than with Silenus, but because the moneyer’s branch of the gens Vibia lacks the cognomen “Pansa” (a reason for the appearance of Pan on the coins of moneyers with that cognomen, as a pun), Silenus appears to be a more likely identification, given the association of Silenus with Bacchus. See Jones, supra at p, 289, identifying Silenus as “[a]n elderly attendant of Bacchus.” See also id. at p. 234 (entry for “Pan”), noting that “[a] bearded head which appears on [the obverse of] a silver sestertius of T. Carisius [46 BC), with a reverse type of a panther bearing a thyrsus, has been identified as Pan but is more likely to be a Silenus, matching the Bacchic reverse type.”

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My most interesting panther / leopard


My most interesting Leoprd

Valerian I
Cilicia, Anazarbus
Æ 30mm
Dated CY 272 (253/4).
Obv.: AVT K Π ΛIK OVAΛЄPIANOC CЄ, Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right.
Rev.: ANASAPBOV MHTPO / Γ - Γ / ЄT BOC A M K, Dionysos, raising hand over head and holding filleted thyrsus, reclining on panther right, head left.
AE, 30mm, 18.34g
Ref.: Ziegler, Anazarbos, 829.1 [dies Vs2/Rs4] (this coin cited), SNG BN 2158

ex auction Knopek, lot 420 (December 1979)
ex Kölner Münzkabinett Tyll Kroha, auction 49, lot 546 (1989)
ex Jacquier list 12, lot 222 (1990)

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