Elephants on Roman coins -- including my RR Denarius No. 37

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, Oct 30, 2020.

  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    In the nine months (as of yesterday) since I joined Coin Talk -- and I really can't believe that I've posted more than 2,000 messages in that time, although I do appreciate the nearly 10,000 likes! -- I don't believe that there's been a thread for people to show their elephants on Roman coins, or ancient coins in general. Given that I happen to be very fond of elephants (both in real life and in numismatics), and that a couple of new elephant coins have arrived in the mail recently, I thought it was time for such a thread. I have only four elephant coins in total, and here they are in chronological order:

    The first one has an elephant that's really rather crude in design -- I wonder if the engraver ever even saw one -- but I like it a lot anyway.

    Roman Republic, Q. Caecilius Metullus, AR Denarius, 81 BCE. Obv. Head of Pietas right, wearing diadem; below chin, stork standing right / Rev. Elephant standing left, wearing bell around neck; in exergue, Q•C•M•P•I [Q. Caecilius Metellus Imperator]. Crawford 374/1, RSC I Caecilia 43, Sear RCV I 301 (ill.), Sydenham 750, BMCRR Spain 43. 18 mm., 3.9 g.*

    The first photo is the dealer's; I'm adding two photos I just took simply because I think they represent the actual color better:

    Q. Cec. Metullus denarius (Pietas-elephant) jpg version.jpg

    Metullus Pius (Pietas-elephant) Obv. 1.jpg

    Metullus Pius (Pietas-elephant Rev. 1.jpg

    *See Sear RCV I at p. 128: “The issuer strikes as imperator in Northern Italy where he was campaigning on behalf of Sulla. The following year he was to be the dictator’s colleague in the consulship.” See also Crawford Vol. I p. 390: "This issue was produced by Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, serving as a Sullan commander in the fight against Carrinas, Norbanus and Carbo. The obverse type [of Pietas] . . . alludes to his cognomen, acquired for his part in securing the restoration from exile of his father Q. Caecilius Metullus Numidicus.” The stork depicted in front of Pietas “is an emblem of family piety and an occasional adjunct of the goddess.” Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (London, Seaby, 1990) p. 243, under entry for Pietas. (Apparently, the Romans believed that the stork demonstrated family loyalty by returning to the same nest every year, and that it took care of its parents in old age.) Crawford also states at Vol. I p. 390 that “[t]he reverse type of an elephant recalls the capture of Hasdrubal’s elephants by L. Caecilius Metullus in 251 [BCE]” (also commemorated by an elephant denarius of C. Caecilius Metullus Caprarius in 125 BCE; Crawford 269/1, RSC I Caecilia 14). The elephant continued to be associated thereafter with the family (see the elephant denarius of Q. Caecilius Metullus Pius Scipio issued in 47-46 BCE; Crawford 459/1, RSC I Caecilia 47). The family was known for its opposition to Caesar.

    As many of you know, Metullus Pius elephant coins like this one, given that the family were well-known to be opponents of Caesar, have been used to support the theory (as presented by Michael Harlan and elucidated eloquently by @Severus Alexander) that Caesar's own elephant/snake coin was intended to portray the snake positively and the elephant negatively -- contrary to what the modern eye tends to see.

    A couple of questions about the elephant on this coin: First, is that supposed to be hair along the top of its back? Second, what in the world is going on with its left hind leg? I get that it apparently starts up near the elephant's back, but what is it that looks like a huge gouge out of the elephant's side around that leg, and what is the length of flesh that appears to cover part of the leg towards the bottom? Is it possible that it's supposed to be the tail?

    The next three are all Imperial coins:

    Antoninus Pius AE As, 148 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Laureate head right, ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR P XII / Rev. Elephant walking left, MV-NIFICENTIA AVG; in exergue COS IIII/S C in two lines. RIC III 863, Sear RCV II 4308 (var.), BMCRE 1840. 29 mm., 10.4 g. (Issued to commemorate games and spectacles held to celebrate 900th anniversary of Rome.)

    Antoninus Pius - Elephant Obverse.jpg

    Antoninus Pius - Elephant Reverse.jpg

    I love the traces of coppery color showing through.

    I did a search to see if anyone has posted the type here, and couldn't find any examples of the left-facing elephant variety; only the one facing right. I guess the left-facing one is less common.

    The next coin is missing a good part of the reverse legend, but I think the elephant is really adorable!

    Septimius Severus, AR Denarius 197 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Laureate head right, L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP VIII / Rev. Elephant advancing right, MVNIFICENTIA AVG. RIC IV-1 82, RSC III 348, Sear RCV II 6317. 18 mm., 3.32 g.

    Septimius Severus- elephant Obv 1.jpg

    Septimius Severus - Elephant Rev. 1.jpg

    Finally, a coin that isn't technically part of Philip I's SAECVLARES AVGG series -- it has a different reverse legend, and no officina mark -- but is generally believed to have been issued for the same occasion, namely the games and spectacles held in celebration of Rome's 1000th anniversary:

    Philip I AR Antoninianus, ca. 247 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Radiate, draped, & cuirassed bust right, IMP PHILIPPVS AVG/ Rev. Elephant walking left, bearing driver holding goad, AETERNITAS AVGG. RIC IV-3 58, RSC IV 17, Sear RCV III 8921. 23 mm., 4.2 g.

    Philip I Antoninianus (Elephant Obverse) jpg version.jpg

    Philip I Antoninianus (Elephant) - reverse 2.jpg

    Please post your own examples of elephants on ancient coins, whether Greek, Roman, or other. One request: please no elephant-skin headdresses (even though I have a couple of coins showing them myself), elephant heads, or other parts of dismembered elephants. I like my elephants whole and entire!
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2020
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  3. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    These elephant theme coins are so nice. :happy:
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  4. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: Diademed head of Pietas right; stork standing right before
    REVERSE: Q C M P I beneath elephant walking left w/bell hanging from neck
    Northern Italy, 79 BC-77 BC
    3.75g; 18mm
    Caecilia 43; Crawford 374/1; Syd 750; Sear 301
    Titus 5.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: IMP TITVS CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M, laureate head right
    REVERSE: TRP IX IMP XV COS VIII PP, elephant walking left
    Struck at Rome, 80 AD
    2.5g, 17mm
    RIC 115
    Septimius Severus 21.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP VIIII, laureate head right
    REVERSE: MVNIFICENTIA AVG, Elephant wearing cuirass walking right
    Struck at Rome, 196 197 AD
    3.63g, 17mm
    RIC 100, RSC 349
    PHILIP I 6.jpg
    AE Sestertius
    OBVERSE: IMP M IVL PHILIPPVS AVG, laureate and draped bust right
    REVERSE: AETERNITAS AVGG, elephant and driver walking left, SC in ex.
    Struck at Rome, 247-8 AD
    20.6g, 28mm
    RIC 161a
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  5. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..nice!...shoot mrs D..you fit right in here and congrats on #37 & 2000 likes(so far):)...those elephant coins have given the slip so far..but i'll keep tryin':smuggrin:
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  6. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Those are great. I would love a Titus elephant coin, but I almost never see them for sale.
  7. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks! But don't short-change me, now, the 2,000 is posts, not likes! Also, I haven't been a Mrs. for a while. Just plain old Ms. these days! Although now that I've reached a certain age, people tend to call me Mrs. anyway.
  8. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Splendid examples! And I LOVE your new RR:artist::artist::singing::woot:
    I do love elephants on ancients and so did the Seleukids:
    IMG_3886.jpg 20190503_142549_16BFB532-AB6D-4396-AFF1-3DCE8330AB28-489-000000AEB250706D.png 20190615_205802_56B7F9DF-5147-4BF6-8491-7EB5E437A1B4-3216-000003CFA01059A4.png
    Which surely inspired the Metelii, who were elefans to use the Macedonian shield with an elephant's head:
    And various other elephants:
    20200223_101249_C01F6528-04EB-404D-88EB-364111BD3BE9-631-0000041A45C8C0EA.png 20200126_102758_9AF543AC-5108-4F93-A9DC-1F6FE9E61EA7-2259-000002380E9315C1.png 20190418_062252_326E8AB5-7098-4CAF-944D-05F4E5EE2314-218-0000001054C54B47.png 20190418_062445_C69B82BC-AEC9-4334-A877-76D0D2F2E522-218-00000010F63800F7.png
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2020
  9. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..oops:rolleyes:...right! :D
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  10. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Those are some nice elephant examples Donna. Sadly, I have no elephants though I'm hoping to get the common Caesar example soon. I did pick up a hippo on a coin of Alexandria last week but have yet to receive the coin. Should be good for a "hippo" thread.
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  11. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    The only hippo I have is the one on the reverse of an Otacilia Severa coin, part of the Philip I SAECVLARES AVGG series. I wonder how many others there are. I guess I'll find out if you start that thread!
  12. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Excellent elephants @DonnaML

    A pity I have already posted my Caesar/Elephant earlier today, it's my only one.

    I have a strange thing to show that may be apropriate though : I don't know if the celator was in a fun mood that day, but I really think the wings of the caduceus on that denarius look like two elephant heads, don't they ?

    M. Plaetorius M.f. Cestianus. Denarius
    Rome mint, c. 69 BC
    Male head right (Mercury ?) with flowing hair. Behind symbol
    M·PLAETORI – CEST·EX·S·C Winged caduceus
    18 mm, 3,86 gr
    Ref : RCV #344, RSC Plaetoria # 5, Sydenham # 807, RBW # 1453, Crawford # 405/5
    From the E.E. Clain-Stefanelli collection


  13. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Very much so. That had to be intentional, right? Have you found any other dies that look like that?
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  14. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Unfortunately, no

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  15. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Donna, That's an impressive herd of elephants you've got :jawdrop:! Did you spot lot 444 at Roma Auction XX ? That impressive beast hammered for 4,400 B.P. :cool:.

    Roma XX, Lot 444.jpg
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  16. jamesicus

    jamesicus Supporter! Supporter

    Memorial procession of DIVVS Augustus

    TIBERIUS, SESTERTIUS, BMCRE, Vol. I, Rome, No. 126, AD 36-37
    (35mm, 22.6gm)
    TIBERIUS, SESTERTIUS, RIC, Vol. I, Rome, No. 68, AD 36-37
    Cataloged in Wildwinds under Augustus - Sear 1784

    Obverse depiction: Augustus, radiate, togate, holding laurel branch in r. hand and long sceptre in l., seated on throne, placed on a car, drawn l. by four elephants, each bearing a mahout on its neck. The side of the car is ornamented with shields.
    Inscription across top in three lines DIVO AVGVSTO SPQR

    Reverse depiction: Large, centered S C
    Inscription clockwise from top: TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVST PM TR POT XXXIIX

    Congratulations on your 2000 posts Donna - always interesting and thoughtful.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2020
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  17. Alegandron

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

    Nice OP post and coins, @DonnaML ...

    I dunno, some time we should do a DIS.MEM..BERED Elephant thread... :)

    Here are a few of my whole Elephants:

    Etruria 3rd C BCE AE 18mm 4.76g Hd African r Elephant r letter below SNG Cop 48 HNI 69 SNG Paris 138-140 SNG Morcom 44 RARE

    Baktria Apollodotos I 180-160 BCE Square AR Drachm 20mm 2.4g Elephant Zebu-Brahman SNG ANS 324-327

    INDIA Sunga Dynasty 187-78 BCE Cast Copper 1-2 Karshapana 15mm 2.5g Elephant flag swastika taurine symbol - Tree 3-arched hill hollow cross MACW 4378
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  18. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

    Great coins DonnaML, and you've been quite busy on this forum indeed! :)

    I really love elephants too. One of the many thinks I like about them, is that, despite their size, they have a graceful appearance and their movement is really elegant.

    Below I've shown my three coins with elephants. And two photo's of elephants I've encountered on one of our trips in Africa. I had the first one pressed on canvas and have it up on the wall.




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  19. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Limes, You're so right about the beauty & grace of elephants, they can be fearless adversaries too. They are very family oriented with the largest female leading the herd. Elephants have almost human-like emotions & express grief too.
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  20. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I believe most of the usual suspects have been posted before I got here but I'll add the Commodus as.

    Perhaps less popular are some Eastern tuskers:

    Vasisthiputra Sri Pulamavi, 131-159 AD Bi karshapana 18mm
    Gautamiputra Sri Yajna Satakarni, Bi karshapana 18mm later? 2nd century AD

    Last are two lead pieces (PB13-14) of the Ikshvakus probably issued c.300AD but what I don't know about these coins seems larger than the critters on them. I bought two (right and left) in 2011 and never learned anything about them.
    oo3540bb2733.jpg oo3545bb2753.jpg
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  21. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    You are right. I don't see them often, but they are not listed as scarce or rare. I would like to own one that is not so rough. Perhaps one of these days.....
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