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Europa

My first coin today is a Syro-Phoenician Tetradrachm of Caracalla, from Sidon with Europa on the reverse. Sidon is named for King Sidon son of Canaan, mentioned in Genesis 10.1-32 in the genealogy of Noah after the flood.


Europa, daughter of King Agenor of Tyre was abducted by Zeus, disguised as a bull, and taken to the shores of the continent which was named after her, Europa. The city of Sidon had a large template dedicated to Europa, built in Phoenician style, with two large columns in front.

Enlèvement d'Europe (The Abduction of Europa) by Nöel-Nicolas Coypel, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Sidon was a place of gardens, orchards, and parks. The Greek word paradeisos derives from a Persian word for a park and is the origin of our word Paradise.

Phoenicia, Sidon, Caracalla, AD 198-217, AR Tetradrachm, struck AD 215-217

Obv: AVT KAI ANTωNINOC CЄ, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right

Rev: ΔHMAPX ЄΞ VΠATOC T Δ, Eagle standing facing, head and tail left, with wings spread, holding wreath in beak; between legs, Europa on bull, holding billowing veil, to right

Ref: Prieur 1357 (letter spacing different on this coin)


The letter spacing on this coin is not what is seen in Prieur, with the delta separated by the eagle's wing. It is interesting to see the price history (2004-2021) for the 23 specimens of this type that are labeled as Prieur 1357 in ACSearch (other examples exist). Price X Year

The graph shows clearly some of the risk in thinking about rare ancient coins as an investment. There are many variables and prices don't always go up. Condition, new finds, which venue you purchase from can all be contributing factors. For more on coins and pricing - see Calculating the Price.


For another coin with Europa depicted and another tale of Europa - I will turn to a denarius from the late republic or the imperatorial period when Julius Caesar was in the last year before he was assassinated on the ides (15th) of March, 44 BC.


David Wood (20013) interprets the images as a propaganda campaign in favor of Julius Caesar's campaign against Parthia. He points to the description of Herodotus who positions the abduction of Europa as one a series of exchanges of aggression between Asia and Europe. First Io was kidnapped by the Phoenicians and taken to Egypt, then Europa was kidnapped by the Greeks, then Medea by the Greeks, after which Helen was taken from the Greeks by Troy.

"They (Phoenicians) stood about the stern of  the ship: and while they bargained for such wares as they fancied, the Phoenicians heartened each other to the deed, and rushed to take them.  Most of the women escaped: Io with others was carried off; the men cast  her into the ship and made sail away for Egypt.  This, say the Persians (but not the Greeks), was how Io came to Egypt,  and this, according to them, was the first wrong that was done. Next,  according to their tale, certain Greeks (they cannot tell who) landed at  Tyre in Phoenicia and carried off the king's daughter Europa."
-Herodotus, 1.1.2

So perhaps in this context, Europa on a Roman republican coin could be support for a just campaign in Asia in 45 BC with Julius Caesar prepared for a campaign against Parthia.


Julius Caesar illustrates on this coin his claim to descent from Venus and Aeneas - with a scene of Aeneas leaving Troy:

Julius Caesar, 47-46 BC, AR Denarius, 19mm, 3.6g, North Africa mint

Obv:Diademed head of Venus facing right.

Rev:CAESAR, Aeneas advancing left, carrying his father Anchises on left shoulder and palladium

Ref: Crawford 458/1


Here's a Roman republican denarius with Europa on the reverse:

Imperatorial Rome, L. Valerius Acisculus, 45 BC, AR Denarius, (19.8mm, 3.95g, 12h), Rome mint

Obv: ACIS-CVLVS, diademed head of Apollo Soranus right, surmounted by star; acisculus to left

Rev: L. VALERIVS, Europa riding bull right, holding a billowing veil above

Ref: Crawford 474/1a; CRI 90; Sydenham 998; Valeria 17; RBW 1656

Note: with <30 dies reported in Crawford RRC this isn't an easy coin to find , the asciculus (a stone mason's pick) shown behind Apollo on the obverse represents the moneyer's name.

References

  • Michael and Karin Prieur (2000), "The Syro-Phoenician Tetradrachms and their fractions from 57 BC to AD 253 Paperback – January 1, 2000", CNG

  • Mark, Sidon, 2009

  • Woods, D. (2013). Carisius, Acisculus, and the Riddle of the Sphinx. American Journal of Numismatics (1989-), 25, 243–257.

  • Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage

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