Claudius and the Temple of Artemis

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by savitale, Aug 11, 2022.

  1. savitale

    savitale Well-Known Member

    Here is another addition to my Roman Emperor collection, Claudius.

    Leu Numismatik, Auction 8, Lot 252 10/23/21

    Claudius, 41-54. Cistophorus (Silver, 27 mm, 11.08 g, 6 h), Ephesus, circa 41-42. TI•CLAVD CAES•AVG Bare head of Claudius to left. Rev. DIAN - EPHE Tetrastyle temple on podium of four steps, enclosing cult statue of Diana of Ephesus with polos on head and fillets hanging from wrists; pediment decorated with two figures flanking large disk set on central table, and two tables and recumbant figures in angles. BMC 229. Cohen 30. RIC 118. RPC I 2222. A lovely example with very attractive toning and a bold portrait. Minor flan crack, otherwise, about extremely fine.

    Claudius (10 BCE – 54 CE) was the fourth Roman emperor, ruling from 41 to 54 CE. He survived the political turmoil of the period which took the lives of many other members of the Roman elite, possibly in part because his physical disabilities made him appear unthreatening. Claudius did not seem to be destined for high-ranking office. His father (Nero Claudius Drusus) died when Claudius was one year old and he was raised by his mother and then by his grandmother, both of them apparently disaffected by his illness (which may have been cerebral palsy). Claudius was tutored by Livy and chose to live a scholarly life as an historian until his nephew Caligula appointed him co-consul in 37. Being the only remaining adult male of the imperial family upon the assassination of Caligula in 41, the Praetorian Guard declared Claudius emperor after finding him hiding behind a curtain.

    As emperor Claudius was able enough, repairing some of the financial damage done by Caligula. He expanded the empire considerably, annexing Thrace, Noricum (modern Austria), Lycia, Judea, and Britannia. He built aqueducts, roads, and canals, some of which are still visible today. Claudius enjoyed games and offered them frequently. He died in 54 of uncertain cause, though most historians suggest he was poisoned by his wife Agrippina to make way for her son Nero.

    The more interesting side of this coin, however, is the reverse. It depicts the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, also known as the Artemision, one of the Seven Wonders of the World described by ancient Greek travel-writers. I found this cool graphic of the Seven Wonders on Wikipedia.

    seven wonders.png

    Pliny writes that the Temple was 425 feet in length, 225 feet wide, with 127 columns rising 60 feet high. (Pliny The Elder, Natural History 36.21) The coin shows the cult statue of Ephesian Artemis. This form of the goddess bears little physical resemblance to the Greek goddess and doubtless derives from Egyptian or Near-Eastern roots. Occupation of the site of the Temple of Artemis has been shown archaeologically back to the bronze age, long before the arrival of Ionian Greeks. Almost certainly this pre-Hellenic goddess, sometimes called The Lady of Ephesus after a 3rd c. BCE inscription, was simply re-assigned by Greek settlers as Artemis, a familiar member of the Greek Pantheon.

    Ephesian Artemis is immediately recognizable by the bulbous objects covering the upper part of the body (not fully struck up on this coin, but still recognizable). What the objects represent is not known with certainty; some have suggested they are many breasts symbolizing fertility. This is quite at odds, however, with the Greek Artemis, an eternally maiden goddess. As surviving statuary seems to place these objects on the outside of clothes they are probably some form of ornament, hypothesized to be amber beads, gourds, or even bulls’ testicles.

    On the coin we see what appear to be two objects hanging from the arms of the cult statue. It is not clear what these objects are. They have been called staffs, intertwined serpents, fillets (ornamental ribbons of wool), and other things. After much searching the only piece of ancient iconography I could find to support any of those theories is this marble relief from a 2016 Christies auction showing the statue holding what they call “knotted woolen ribbons”.


    Unfortunately all that remains at the site of Temple of Artemis today are fragments of the foundation and a few scattered column drums, a few of which have been stacked on top of one another in modern times to give a miserable representation of a Greek column. But at least we have the depictions of this ancient wonder on coins.
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  3. Curtis

    Curtis Supporter! Supporter

    Leu was right, that really is a lovely example! I pay attention to these ones at auction, since they seem like the best value for a silver RIC (sorta) of Claudius. Very impressive coin, congratulations! And nice writeup. I do really love coins that depict structures that still exist (or at least their foundations or ruins) today.

    I don't have of any of these types, but I'll share some tangentially relevant coins.

    Here's my best Diana-Artemis of Ephesus... or, rather, the Artemis-of-Ephesus-of-Massalia (Marseilles) according to Roma Numismatics (discussing a different specimen; I have not independently investigated their argument):

    "It is to [Massalia] that the archaic statue of Artemis on the reverse refers: the worship of Artemis of Ephesus had been a major part of the city's religious fabric since its establishment as a colony by Greek settlers, and she appears here in her capacity as chief goddess of the city"​

    And, on the obverse, the "Dreadlocked Gallia," as I call her (I imagine this to be Vercingetorix's wife, but that's entirely fan-fiction). A Hostilius Saserna AR Denarius (48 BCE, Cr. 448/3):
    CONSERVATORI-Hostilius Saserna AR Denarius Dreadlocked Gallia DRAFT 2-B.png

    Below is a favorite temple coin of mine, struck in the name of Philip II in Thessalonica (RPC Temp 69113 = this coin illustrated). It's a coin celebrating the second Pythian Games of Thesaalonica and the city's Neocorate status. There are a few possibilities for which temple this was. Personally, I think it's the Temple of Kabeiros in the city's "Sacred Quarter." When ancient sources (e.g., Biblical) describe Thessalonica's cult of Dionysus, I think they're actually describing the cult of Kabeiros:

    Philip II AE Thessalonica Pythian Games Issue CNG 489 (07-04-2021), 272, RPC 'plate coin'.jpg
  4. El Cazador

    El Cazador Well-Known Member

    Fantastic coin, but $10,000 with the juice in 2021 is extremely excessive and I mean EXTREMELY
    Hopefully you paid no more than 1/3 of the price…
    hotwheelsearl likes this.
  5. Curtis

    Curtis Supporter! Supporter

    Why would they have paid anything different from that price? It would seem they're the buyer. Are you saying you think someone else may have bought the coin at that price and then sold it to the OP for 1/3 of the price less than a year later?
  6. El Cazador

    El Cazador Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I certainly hope so

    otherwise OP would post this coin last year, no? What do you think?
  7. Curtis

    Curtis Supporter! Supporter

    I think 10 months isn't very long ago. I have coins I bought 30 years ago that I'm still sharing for the first time.

    And, I guess, that it's a moot point. Whatever they paid, they paid, that's their business. They wrote a lot about other things having to do with the coin, but didn't say anything about price, so I guess they think that's probably one of the least interesting things about the coin (which I kind of agree with).
  8. El Cazador

    El Cazador Well-Known Member

    To each his own
  9. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    Antonin Ephèse.jpg Another view of this temple, on an Antoninus Pius coin minted at Ephesus. There are no pediment details but the number of columns matches the actual facade of the Hellenistic temple.
    This temple was one of the oldest Greek temples. A first one was built in the late 8th c. BC, and was destroyed by a catastrophic flood in the 6th c. BC. It was rebuilt c. 550 BC with huge proportions, but entirely burnt in 356 BC by the famous arsonist Herostratus. It was rebuilt in the late 4th c. BC even larger and with more luxury: it is this Hellenistic temple that was considered one of the 7 wonders of the world, and which is represented on coins. A model of this temple also topped the tiara of the goddess' cult statue.

    artemis statuette.jpg
    Fragment of a terracotta statuette of Ephesian Artemis, Roman period (I don't know from where it comes, I found it years ago at the flea market :)). The New Testament says that there was in Ephesus a prosperous souvenir industry with craftsmen making models of the temple in silver and statuettes of the goddess for pilgrims to bring back home. This terracotta statuette was obviously one of the cheapest you could find, like the little plastic Madonnas you can find in Lourdes for € 1.00.

    The wonderful temple remained in use through the Roman period. It was looted and perhaps partially burnt by a raid of Goths in 268 AD and definitively closed in the late 4th c. after Pagan cults were outlawed. It is very likely that it was used as a quarry in the Byzantine period, for almost nothing of it has been found when archaeologists dug the site in the 19th c. Today there is just one single much restored column to be seen :

    Fortunately, not far from Ephesus, we still can admire the more extensive remains of a nearly similar temple at Didyma: the oracular temple of Apollo. It was built from solid white marble at the same time, and has roughly the same gigantic dimensions as the temple of Artemis.
    Temple of Apollo at Didyma
    Marsyas Mike, Limes, savitale and 9 others like this.
  10. Carl Wilmont

    Carl Wilmont Supporter! Supporter

    Beautiful coin, and interesting write-up, @savitale! The visual aid for the Seven Wonders of the World packs in a lot of information. Very detailed Artemis on your denarius, @Curtis! @GinoLR, that's a nice temple reverse on your coin with the dark green patina. Good additional information and pics of relevant ruins in your post, also. Love that statuette fragment you acquired!

    Temple of Artemis in Ephesus:

    IONIA. Ephesos. Hadrian (117-138 AD). AE. Hadrian laureate head right. / Statue of Artemis Ephesia facing within temple. 21 mm. 5.89 g.

    Modern souvenirs:


    Temple of Artemis in Perga:
    Pamphylia. Perga (circa 50-30 BC). Æ (Bronze, 17 mm, 4.87 g).
    Cult statue of Artemis Pergaia facing within distyle temple / Bow and quiver, AΡTEMIΔOΣΠEΡΓAIAΣ around.
    Marsyas Mike, Limes, savitale and 6 others like this.
  11. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    That's an absolutely beautiful coin, with a wonderful centered strike, and a great portrait and reverse temple!
    savitale, Curtis and Carl Wilmont like this.
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