Dog Days

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Carausius, Feb 23, 2021 at 4:31 PM.

  1. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    Without plan or intention, over the past few months while COVID bound, I have acquired several Roman Republican coins bearing images of dogs or puppies in addition to the several dog depictions already in my collection. With my curiosity aroused, I researched ancient Roman dog breeds to determine which breeds might be shown on the coins.

    The ancients appreciated the loyal companionship of dogs, as reflected in many ancient texts. However, dogs were predominately “working” animals for the Romans. Dogs were used by the Romans primarily as house watchdogs (cave canem!), livestock watchdogs, for hunting and, among the upper-classes, as pets. Spiked collars, developed by the Greeks, were popular accessories for Roman farm dogs – because they discouraged wolf attacks. There were several breeds of dog favored by the Romans:

    1. The Laconian, was a swift hunting hound. By its name, it originated in the southern Peloponnesus of Greece. The Laconian was large, short-haired, with a small head, straight nose, upright ears, a long neck. In ancient carvings, their shape looks similar to a greyhound. Their coloring was often tan with white markings on the face, chest, legs, and rear; or black with tan markings. They tracked hares by smell but were too slow to catch their prey; rather, they drove the hares into nets.​

    2. The Vertragus, was a very quick hunting hound – faster than a Laconian. It’s unclear whether this breed was derivative of the Laconian, or a native Italian hound. They were “sight” hounds that caught their prey and retrieved for their masters. They may be ancestors of Italian greyhounds.​

    3. The Molossian, was a large, muscular breed that originated in Epirus and is perhaps best compared to a modern mastiff or Rottweiler. They are depicted in statues with wide, short muzzles, mane-like hair at the neck, bushy tail, and heavy skin around the neck. They were favored as guard dogs for homes and livestock. However, they were also used by the Roman military as guard dogs and (possibly) for fighting missions. The Romans reportedly trained these dogs to carry flaming buckets of oil against charging cavalry.


    4. The Melitae or Melitan (modern Maltese) or Alopekis in Greek, was a small, lapdog and thus popular with the upper classes who could afford to keep a dog purely as a pet.​

    Now, let’s look at some coins from my collection to see if we can identify the type of dog depicted.


    Rome. The Republic. C. Mamilius Limetanus, 82 BC. AR Serrate Denarius (3.97g; 20mm). Rome Mint. Obverse: Draped bust of Mercury facing right, wearing winged petasus ; caduceus over l. shoulder; behind, I. Reverse: C·MAMIL – LIMETAN Ulysses standing r., holding staff and extending his right hand to his dog Argus. References: Crawford 362/1; Sydenham 741; Mamilia 6. Provenance: NAC Sale 78 (26 May 2014), Lot 627.

    Probably the most popular “dog” type in Roman numismatics, this denarius depicts the famous scene from Homer’s Odyssey in which Odysseus returns home to Ithaca, disguised as a beggar, and is recognized only by his faithful dog, Argus, who dies after greeting his long-lost master. Homer clearly describes Argus as a hunting hound, trained by Odysseus before he left for Troy. During Odysseus’ absence, Argus hunted deer, hare and wild goats. The 20-year-old Argus is described as swift, strong and a good tracker in his youth. On the coin, he looks like a slim and short-haired Laconian hound.

    Rome, The Republic. Anonymous. 234-231 BCE. AE Half Litra (1.58g; 12mm). Rome Mint. Obverse: Head of Roma in Phrygian helmet, facing right. Reverse: Dog prancing toward right; ROMA in exergue. References: Crawford 26/4; BMCRR (Romano-Campanian) 44-48. Provenance: Ex NAC 84 (20 May 2015), Lot 765; purchased privately from Or Gestion Numismatique (Paris) in 2009.

    The pose of the dog is unusual, as it appears to be prancing in some way, and the dog is rendered somewhat differently between dies. On many dies as this one, its snout is clearly upturned, perhaps honing a scent. On some dies, the dog is rendered skinnier than others, with ribs visible. All things considered, I believe the coins show a Laconian or Vertragus hound.


    Rome, The Republic. C. Postumius, 74-73 BCE. AR Denarius (3.95g; 20mm).
    Rome mint. Obverse: Draped bust of Diana facing right, with bow and quiver over shoulder. Rev: Hound running to right; spear below; C. POSTVMI and AT or TA (ligate) in exergue. References: Crawford 394/1a; Sydenham 785; BMCRR 3238; Postumia 9. Provenance: Ex Student and Mentor Collection [NAC 83 (20 May 2015) Lot 347]; ex Frank Sternberg Auction VII (24-5 Nov 1977), Lot 390; ex Cuzzi Collection [Baranowski (Dec 1929) Lot 280].

    With Diana, the Huntress, on the obverse, the reverse certainly depicts a hunting hound – either a Laconian or Vertragus. Slim, with well-defined ribs, it very much resembles a modern greyhound in form.


    Rome, The Republic. Dog Series, 206-195 BCE. AE As (35.91g; 34mm). Rome Mint. Obverse: Laureate head of Janus; I (mark-of-value) above. Reverse: Prow right; dog symbol above; I (mark-of-value) to right; ROMA below. References: Crawford 122/3; Sydenham 251; BMCRR 489-90. Provenance: Ex A.J. Scammell Collection [DNW (3 Jun 2020) Lot 119].

    This is a tougher call, as the dog looks more like a puppy than an adult, and may not exhibit its adult attributes. However, given the fluffy tail, and the heaviness of the neck and chest area, I suspect this is a young Molossian. The identity of the moneyer or persons responsible for producing these early symbol bronzes is generally unknown. Because some symbols are later repeated on certain named coins in the Republican series, family connections to the earlier symbol coins are sometimes proposed by researchers. In the case of the dog symbol, we see later silver and bronze coins of the Antestia gens bearing similar dog symbols. Which brings us to our next examples…


    Rome, The Republic. C. Antestius, 146 BCE. AR Denarius (4.07g; 20mm). Rome Mint. Obverse: Helmeted head of Roma facing right; C ANTESTI behind; X (mark-of-value) below chin. Reverse: Dioscuri galloping right with couched spears; puppy below, with front feet raised; ROMA in exergue. References: Crawford 219/1e; Sydenham 411; BMCRR 860; Antestia 1. Provenance: Ex Artemide Auction 2 (1996), Lot 411.

    More of the puppy’s attributes are visible on this denarius than the on the previous bronze. In particular, the fluffy tail and long hair suggest this is a Molossian. The fact that it is running with the Dioscuri and their couched spears raises the question of whether the Molossian’s were being used in warfare at this time. Or perhaps, the Dioscuri are on a hunt.

    Rome, The Republic. C. Antestius, 146 BCE. AE As (24.56g; 33mm; 12h). Rome Mint. Obverse: Laureate head of Janus; I (mark-of-value) above. Reverse: Prow facing right; Puppy and C ANTESTI above; I (mark-of-value) before; ROMA in exergue. References: Crawford 219/2; Sydenham 407; BMCRR 862; Antestia 4. Provenance: Nomisma Auction e20 (23 Jan 2021) Lot 16.

    Similar characteristics on the puppy as the denarius suggest this is a Molossian. The connection between the Antestia gens and the dog is not known.


    Rome, The Republic. C. Hosidius C. f. Geta, 68 BC. AR Denarius (3.91g; 17mm). Rome Mint. Obverse: IIIVIR – GETA; diademed bust of Diana, facing right, with quiver of arrows over shoulder. Reverse: C.HOSIDI.C.F.; wounded boar running to right, pursued by hound. References: Crawford 407/2; Sydenham 903; Hosidia 1. Provenance: Ex Kunker Auction 257 (10 Oct 2014), Lot 8422.

    The hound on the coins of C. Hosidius are shown in two distinct styles: on the non-serrate coins, in an ultra-slim, almost linear body style; and on the serrate coins, in a more lifelike, heavier style. In both cases, the hunting scene suggests that this dog should be a Laconian or Vertragus hound. Indeed, the dog is slim on both types, with a short haired tail – not a bushy tail, like a Molossian.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2021 at 6:10 PM
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  3. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    I dont think I’d ever seen the dog series As. What a terrific coin!
    Carausius likes this.
  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    My coins with dogs only occur in the context of Artemis/Diana hunting:

    Trajan Decius. AD 249-251.
    Roman provincial Æ 32.5 mm, 18.74 g, 6 h.
    Cilicia, Tarsus, AD 249-251.
    Obv: ΑV ΚΑΙ Γ ΜЄϹ ΚVΙΝ ΔЄΚΙΟϹ ΤΡΑΙΑΝΟϹ, Π Π, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right.
    Rev: ΤΑΡϹΟV ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛЄΩϹ Γ Β, Α Μ Κ. Artemis standing right, drawing arrow from quiver and holding bow and arrow; at feet on either side, deer standing left and dog running right with raised paws, head left.
    Refs: RPC 1346; SNG Levante 1156 ; SNG France 1754; SNG von Aulock 6065; SNG Cop 33; Ziegler 808.16.33; Lindgren III, 926.

    Gallienus, AD 153-268.
    Roman billon antoninianus.
    Mediolanum, AD 264-265.
    Obv: GALLIENVS AVG, Narrow radiate head right, both ribbons behind.
    Rev: DIANA FELIX, Diana standing right, holding spear and bow; at foot, hound.
    Refs: RIC 473K; Göbl 1146m(2): Cohen/RSC 173; RCV 10197; Hunter pl. lxvi.

    Faustina Jr, AD 147-175.
    Roman provincial AE 25.1 mm, 8.88 g.
    Thrace, Augusta Traiana, AD 161-175.
    Obv: ΦΑVCΤΕΙΝΑ CΕΒΑCΤΗ, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: ΑVΓΟVCΤΗC ΤΡΑΙΑΝΗC, Artemis standing right, holding bow, drawing arrow from quiver, hound at her side.
    Refs: RPC IV.1, 10333 (temporary); CN 6015.; Schönert-Geiß, MATT 43, p. 60, pl. 3-4.
  5. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    I have thought of this several times... I do not know why, but the bust of Sulla always reminds me of the Molossian Dog...

    upload_2021-2-24_8-52-53.png upload_2021-2-24_8-53-57.png

    RR C Hosidius C F Geta 68 BCE Diana bow quiver Boar Hound spear Dog Sear 346 Craw 407-2
  6. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Here are my dogs/hounds -- three Roman Republicans (all of them types that have already been posted above), and one Provincial.

    C. Mamilius Limetanus -- Mercury/Ulysses & his dog Argus

    Mamilius Limetanus (Mercury - Ulysses & dog) jpg version.jpg

    C. Postumius -- Diana/Hound

    Postumius (Diana and hound).jpg

    C. Hosidius C.f. Geta -- Diana/Wild boar of Calydon, pierced by spear & attacked by hound

    New Hosidius Geta Diane-Boar COMBINED.jpg

    Diadumenian Caesar, Tetrassarion, Nicopolis ad Istrum -- Diadumenian/Artemis & hound

    Diadumenian-Artemis (Nikopolis ad Istrum) jpg version.jpg

    PS: It does annoy me that there seem to be no ancient coins depicting domestic cats. I'm a cat person!
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021 at 12:16 PM
  7. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter


    Roman Republic AR Denarius C Antestius Rome 146 BCE 3.97g 19.0mm Helm Roma R X C ANTESTI - Dioscuri galloping R puppy-dog running ROMA Craw 219-1e

    Roman Republic Anon AE Half-Litra 234-231 BCE Roma Phrygian Dog Sear 598 Craw 26-4

    Roman Republic Lucius Caesius 112-111 BCE AR Denarius Apollo dog Lares Praestitesbust Vulcan tongs above LA RE S 175 Craw 298-1

    Roman Republic C Mamilius 82 BCE AR Denarius Serrate Mercury winged petasos caduceus Ulysses Dog Argos Sear 282 Craw 362-1
  8. Mr.Q

    Mr.Q Well-Known Member

    Another great Ancients lesson learned, thanks everyone.
    paschka and Carausius like this.
  9. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter


    Makedon Philip II 359-336 BC AE 19 Horse Hound LEFT-RIGHT

    Roman Republic
    Aes Grave
    AE Quadrans
    269-242 BCE
    Hound-Dog 3 pellets
    Six spoked wheel 3 pellets
    Craw 24-6a Th-Vecchi 34
    Ex Sellwood
    Ex Baldwin Auctions
  10. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    one of my favorite coins is this 146 BC Antestius with doggo on the obverse.:) (heavy influence of @Alegandron here) Antesttius 146 BC 003.JPG Antesttius 146 BC 004.JPG
  11. Curtis

    Curtis Supporter! Supporter

    Those are some great dogs, @Carausius ! Also jealous of @DonnaML 's and @Alegandron 's Argos denarii. That's a type I've been wanting for a while, and the Postumia doggy...and the Caesius doggie... I'm not a "dog person" in real life, I just love the details about daily life we can see through these coins.

    Even the fact that they had the classic poodle "lion cut" for their water fowl hunting dogs. That's what drew me to this Antestius denarius. Not sure my photo can bear all the zooming, but it also always looks to me like the dog's tongue is hanging out of the side of its mouth in this one!

    Roman Republic. C. Antestius AR Denarius (3.81g, 19mm)
    Obv: C•ANTESTI (ANTE ligate) to l. Head of Roma r., X below chin.
    Rev: ROMA in exergue. The Dioscuri holding spears, riding r.; dog running r., both fore-feet raised.
    Ref: Antestia 1; Craw 219/1e.
    Ped: Ex-Artemide Aste 11, 236 (26 Jan 20)
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