Gordian III, AD 238-244. Roman provincial Æ 25.6 mm, 10.61 g, 2 h. Macedon, Thessalonica, AD 238-244. Obv: AVT K M ANT ΓΟΡΔIANOC, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right. Rev: ΘЄCCAΛΟΝΙΚЄΩΝ ΝЄ, tripod surmounted by five apples; Π-V/Θ-Ι/Α across field. Refs: Touratsoglou, Thessaloniki 80; Varbanov 4523; Moushmov 6815. The Pythian games were held at Delphi, a sanctuary called "Pytho" in poetic language. According to myth, it was here that the god Apollo had killed the serpent Python. Several Roman provincial coins share the common reverse motif of Apollo preparing to slay Python, as I have written about previously. Caracalla, with Julia Domna, AD 198-217. Roman provincial Æ Pentassarion, 10. 66 g, 27 mm, 1 h. Moesia Inferior, Marcianopolis, AD 215 under Quintillianus, legatus consularis. Obv: ΑΝΤΩΝΙΝΟC ΑVΓΟVCΤΟC ΙΟV-ΛΙΑ ΔΟΜΝΑ, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Caracalla and draped bust of Julia Domna facing one another. Rev: VΠΑ ΚVΝΤΙΛΙΑΝΟV ΜΑΡΚΙΑΝΟΠΟΛΙΤΩΝ, Apollo standing facing, head right, raising hand over head and holding bow; to left, Є (mark of value) above covered quiver; serpent-entwined stump to right. Refs: AMNG I 660 ff; Moushmov 471; H&J, Marcianopolis 22.214.171.124; Varbanov 1001; Mionnet --; BMC --; Sear --; Wiczay --. Ovid states that the games were inaugurated to celebrate Apollo having killed the serpent: Neve operis famam posset delere vetustas, instituit sacros celebri certamine ludos, Pythia perdomitae serpentis nomine dictos. Which I translate: That his fame would never perish through lapse, he instituted sacred games whose contests throngs beheld, called by the name of the slain Pythian serpent. Though the poetry of Dryden's translation is sweeter to the ear: Then to preserve the fame of such a deed, For Python slain, he Pythian games decreed. The Apollo sanctuary at Delphi originated in the tenth century BC and became world famous for its oracle. In early times, a contest in singing a hymn for the god was held there every eight years. In 586 BC, a power struggle for control over the sanctuary unfolded between the nearby city Crisa and the Amphictyony (a league of twelve surrounding tribes, who had sworn to defend the interests of the cult). The Amphictyony took control of the sanctuary and added other musical events and sports contests to the games. The year 586 BC is therefore considered the foundation date of the Pythian games. The Pythian games were one of four big, quadrennial games of almost international reputation by the standards of the time. The others included the Olympic Games in honor of Olympian Zeus, the Isthmian Games in honor of Poseidon at Corinth and the Nemean Games in honor of Zeus of Nemea. In Roman times, they were complemented by the Actaia at Nicopolis, the Heraia at Argos and the Capitolia at Rome. The games took place over a five day program: - day 1: religious ceremonies (sacrifice, performance of the mythical struggle between Apollo and Python and procession) - day 2: a large banquet - day 3: musical contests - day 4: athletic contests - day 5: horse races The winners of the various competitions were awarded different prizes at the various games. Lucian explains the various contests and prizes in Anacharsis: καὶ ἄλλα δὲ ἡμῖν ἐστι γυμνάσια τοιαῦτα πυγμῆς καὶ δίσκου καὶ τοῦ ὑπεράλλεσθαι, ὧν ἁπάντων ἀγῶνας προτίθεμεν, καὶ ὁ κρατήσας ἄριστος εἶναι δοκεῖ τῶν καθ᾽ αὑτὸν καὶ ἀναιρεῖται τὰ ἆθλα .... Ὀλυμπίασι μὲν στέφανος ἐκ κοτίνου, Ἰσθμοῖ δὲ ἐκ πίτυος, ἐν Νεμέᾳ δὲ σελίνων πεπλεγμένος, Πυθοῖ δὲ μῆλα τῶν ἱερῶν τοῦ θεοῦ, παρ᾽ ἡμῖν δὲ τοῖς Παναθηναίοις τὸ ἔλαιον τὸ ἐκ τῆς μορίας. Which is translated: We likewise have other sports, such as boxing, quoits, and leaping, for every one of which we lay down certain rewards, which the conqueror is entitled to .... At the Olympic games, an olive crown or garland; at the Nemean, one of Parsley; at the Pythian, apples from the trees sacred to Apollo; and with us, at the Panathenaica, olives from the tree of Minerva. Similarly, an anonymous epigram in The Greek Anthology notes: τέσσαρὲς εἰσιν ἀγῶνες ἀν᾽ Ἑλλάδα, τέσσαρες ἱροί, οἱ δύο μὲν θνητῶν, οἱ δύο δ᾽ ἀθανάτων Ζηνός, Λητοΐδαο, Παλαίμονος, Ἀρχεμόροιο. ἆθλα δὲ τῶν, κότινος, μῆλα, σέλινα, πίτυς. Which is translated: There are four games in Greece, two sacred to mortals and two to immortals: to Zeus, Apollo, Palaemon, and Archemorus, and their prizes are wild-olive, and their prizes are wild-olive, apples, celery, and pine-branches. Paton explains, "The games are the Olympian, the Pythian, Isthmian and Nemean ones. The crown of pine was the Isthmean pine, the celery the Nemean. The Pythian apples are mentioned by other later writers." Let's take another look a the reverse of this coin. Its design depicts the prize awarded at the Pythian Games: apples from the trees sacred to Apollo arranged within a tripod, for the tripod is associated with the myth of the slaying of Python by Apollo. Many coins of the Roman provincial series depict the serpent and tripod of Apollo motif, such as this one. Elagabalus, AD 218-222. Roman provincial Æ assarion, 2.88 g, 16.6 mm, 7 h. Moesia Inferior, Marcianopolis, AD 218-222. Obv: ΑVΤ Κ Μ ΑVΡ ΑΝΤΩΝΙΝΟC, laureate head, right. Rev: ΜΑΡΚΙΑΝΟΠΟΛΙΤΩΝ, Tripod with serpent entwined around central leg. Refs: AMNG I 916; Varbanov 1425; Moushmov 653; H&J 126.96.36.199. As I note in a previous thread, Apollo chased the serpent-god Python from Mount Parnassus, slew the creature with his arrow, placed his bones into a tripod cauldron and deposited them into his new temple. Lastly, the association of the coin with the Pythian games is explicitly expressed by the inscription ΠVΘΙΑ (Pythia) inscribed in the fields flanking the tripod. Coins were issued for the Pythian games by other cities in the Roman provincial series, such as this one from Emesa owned by @ancientone , which depicts a prize urn. Post your coins depicting athletic games and contests, comments, or anything you feel is relevant! ~~~ 1. Ovid. Metamorphoses 1.445-6. Hugo Magnus. Gotha (Germany). Friedr. Andr. Perthes. 1892. 2. Dryden, John, and John Sargeaunt. The Poems of John Dryden. H. Frowde, Oxford University Press, 1910, p. 436. 3. Ancient Olympics, ancientolympics.arts.kuleuven.be/eng/TB002EN.html. 4. Kampmann, Ursula. The Prize-Crowns of Philippopolis: How Caracalla in 214 AD Established Pythian Games for the Apollo of Delphi in Philippopolis, www.moneymuseum.com/en/archive/the-prize-crowns-of-philippopolis-345. 5. Ancient Olympics, op. cit. 6. Lucian. The Works of Lucian, from the Greek, by Thomas Francklin. Vol. 2, Printed for T. Cadell, 1780, p. 278. 7. The Greek Anthology 9.357. W.R. Paton. Vol. 3, William Heinemann Ltd., 1917, pp 190-191. 8. Ibid, p. 191. 9. Hyginus (2nd c. AD?), Fabulae: 140 in Trzaskoma, Stephen M., and R. Scott. Smith. Apollodorus' Library and Hyginus' Fabulae: Two Handbooks of Greek Mythology. Hackett Publishing, 2007, p. 146.