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Ancient artwork

This week I am adding an extra "Note" commemorating 3 years of "Notes on Ancient Coins" and post number 160. The photos celebrate the artwork of ancient die engravers, and mint workshops - these coins are both historic & beautiful. Small works of art that carry clues to their time of origin and have somehow survived 1800 years or more.


Perhaps not surprising, I will start with the coins that initiated the collection: Roman Republican denarii from the 80s BCE, the time of the Social Wars, War with Mithridates, and Sulla's dictatorship.


Next a Greek new addition: in my view, a particularly striking and well executed "Eastern Celtic" Tetradrachm:

Eastern Europe, AR Tetradrachm (26mm, 17.32 g, 9h), Imitating Philip III Arrhidaeus of Macedon, 3rd-2nd centuries BCE, minted in the lower Danube region

Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin

Rev: Zeus Aëtophoros seated left; two monograms in left field, Greek Z below throne

Ref: OTA 581/4; Lanz 904–5; CCCBM I S191; KMW 1469


Our name “Celt” comes from the Greek KELTOI which means “barbarian” or “foreigner” – however the Celts were a culture with social structures and norms that were successful in producing goods, farming, military expansion, and trade. Although “Celts” were not homogeneous and covered a broad expanse in Europe, the evolution of Celtic society moved from pre-iron age “Tumulus culture” defined by their use of burial mounds and whole body graves to the “Urnfield culture” defined by their use of funerary urns and bronze swords to the “Hallstatt culture” as Europe entered into the iron-age. Celtic expansion South and encounters with Greeks in the 5th century were driven by success as a structured culture, military success, and needs for increasing resources to support the growing population. “La Tene culture” emerges in the 6th-5th century with sophisticated metalworking, the emergence of art, and advanced societal structure including an elite class. The Celts were successful in displacing and absorbing (with and without violent conflict), weaker, less organized tribes. Their military and weapons manufacturing strengths led to them being prized as mercenaries. It is likely that their trade with Greeks and perhaps employment as mercenaries led them to the minting of these coins imitating Alexander III.


Greek Silver (1st Century BCE and earlier)


Roman Republican and Italian Bronze 2nd Century BCE and earlier. OK, maybe a bit tough to call these beautiful, but there is a rugged beauty to the lump coins - even the Aes Rude. (See: Wabi-sabi, Embracing Imperfection)


Roman Egypt: mostly Tetradrachms 1st Century BCE to 3rd Century CE

To conclude this Note, a 3rd century Roman Antoninianus (Trajan Decius), that pairs well with a listen to this YouTube video from the British Museum: The Carnyx: The Mouthpiece of the Gods - John Kenny

Comments on these "Notes", suggestions for topics and questions about ancient coins are always welcome. Contact information is on the About Page.


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