Julia Domna provincial with a strong Athena Promachos reverse

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Shea19, Feb 24, 2021.

  1. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    I recently added this large provincial bronze of Julia Domna from Cilicia, which is definitely my favorite new coin of the year so far. The reverse has a great depiction of Athena Promachos brandishing a spear and thunderbolt, and it has a striking resemblance to a famous statue of Athena Promachos that was buried in the Vesuvius eruption in Herculaneum (a few miles down the road from Pompeii). The coin was struck on a nice big flan, and it also has a pretty portrait of the empress on the obverse.

    Julia Domna, Cilicia, Isaura, AE Tetrassarion (29 mm, 15.06 g), circa 205-211 AD. IOYΛIA ΔOMNA CЄBAC Draped bust of Julia Domna to right./ Rev. MHTPOΠOΛЄΩC ICAY-PΩN Athena Promachos advancing right, wearing aegis over her shoulders, holding spear in her left hand and brandishing thunderbolt with her right.

    Athena Promachos translates roughly to "Athena who fights in the front line", and represents Athena leading soldiers into battle. I think that a fierce-looking Athena Promachos was a perfect reverse pairing for a powerhouse woman like Julia Domna.

    The picture below shows a famous statue of Athena Promachos in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples (recovered from a villa in Herculaneum), which features the goddess in a nearly identical pose, with an aegis draped over her left arm and a Corinthian helmet.


    If you look at the statue and coin side-by-side, the similarities are clear.

    When looking at the two side-by-side, I noticed an interesting detail. In the statue, there is a gorgon (possibly Medusa) on the aegis on Athena's left arm. If you look at the corresponding spot on the aegis in my coin, it looks like there might be a gorgon depicted there as well. The gorgon is not noted in any of the descriptions of the coin that I've found, but I think it's reasonable to speculate that's what it may be.

    To be clear, my coin couldn't possibly be based on this particular statue, which had been buried by Vesuvius for more than a century before this coin was struck. But given the similarities, I do believe that my coin was based on the same design that the Herculaneum statue was based on. I would think that there must have been many other similar statues and images showing Athena Promachos in the same pose at the time, which have since been lost, but we are fortunate that this statue was so well-preserved.

    Please post your favorite Athena reverses, any goddesses/gods ready for battle, Julia Domna provincials, or anything else relevant!
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021
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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    That's gorgeous, @Shea19! I love those big bronzes from Cilicia. They tend to have rough surfaces, though, and yours is truly exceptional!

    That's a great write-up! I love it when art history is incorporated into a discussion of a coin design. I have a couple with Athena doing battle:

    Athena Itonia:

    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman provincial Æ assarion, 6.04 g, 19.2 mm, 1 h.
    Koinon of Thessaly, Larissa, AD 158-165.
    Obv: ΦΑVϹΤЄΙΝΑ ϹЄΒΑϹΤΗ; bare-headed and draped bust of Faustina II, right.
    Rev: ΚΟΙΝΟΝ ΘЄϹϹΑΛⲰΝ; Athena Itonia in snake-adorned aegis, striding right, brandishing spear and holding shield.
    Refs: RPC IV.1 4570 (temporary); Rogers 98a, SNG Cop 349; SNG Evelpidis 1685; BCD Thessaly II 966.1 & 966.2.
    Notes: Ex-BCD collection. Issued in three denominations: tetrassarion (RPC 4569), diassarion (RPC 4568), and assarion (such as this coin).

    Athena in the Gigantomachy:

    Volusian, AD 251-253.
    Roman provincial Æ 28.2 mm, 11.26 g, 7 h.
    Cilicia, Seleucia ad Calycadnum, AD 251-253.
    Obv: ΑV Κ ΓΑ ΟVΙΒ ϹΑΒΙΝ ΓΑΛΛΟϹ, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: ϹЄΛЄVΚЄ-ΩΝ ΤΩ Π|ΡΟϹ Κ-ΑΛV|ΔΝ, Athena advancing right, brandishing spear, holding shield, attacking serpent-footed giant hurling stone with right hand.
    Refs: RPC IX, 1336; BMC 21.141,54; SNG von Aulock 5851; RG 4480 (SNG France 1055); SNG Levante 780.
    Notes: Double die match to SNG Levante 780 and RG 4480=SNG France 1055 (BnF); obverse die match to BMC 54.
  4. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    What a gorgeous coin! Did you already know about the statue when you bought it?
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  5. Alegandron

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

    What a GREAT coin, @Shea19 ! Very nice Athena...

    Some of My Athena Reverses

    Syracuse Sicily
    Pyrrhus 278-275 BCE
    AE 24mm 9.2g
    HeraklesHd -
    Athena Promachos
    SG1213 LE584


    THESSALY, Thessalian League.
    AR Stater,
    21mm, 5.7g, 12h; c. 50 BC.
    Obv.: Laureate head of Zeus right.
    Rev.: ΘEΣΣA-ΛΩN; Athena Itonia walking right, brandishing spear and holding shield; magistrates ΔAMOΘOI/NOΣ above, ΘIΛOΞENOΣ below.
    Ref: SNG Copenhagen 299 var. (placement of names).


    Zoilos II
    Ca 50-40 BCE
    AR Drachm
    17mm 2.3g
    Athena Alkidemos l monograms
    Antony Actium
    SNG ANS 1654-1658

    Indo-Greek Baktria
    Menander I Soter
    BCE 155-130
    AR Tet
    26mm 9.6g Diad -
    Athena Alkidemos tbolt Gorgon shield
    SNG ANS 764-767
  6. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Wonderful artistry on Julia's portrait@:artist: And don't even get me started on that Athena Promachos Camachos that has me all:

    Here's a recent Athena Pro and some provincial Domnas:
    IMG_0793.JPG IMG_2672.PNG 1619281_1610095166.l-removebg-preview.png
    ...oops, that's not provincial;)
  7. singig

    singig Well-Known Member

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  8. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark standing on the shoulders of giants Dealer

    It's not normal practice to describe a coin as having an aegis with a gorgon's head as aegis is understood to have the head, as that is what makes it an aegis. from Jones "Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins" the aegis usually "displays a gorgon's head or gorgoneion in the centre"
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  9. Spargrodan

    Spargrodan Well-Known Member

    Great coin never seen that reverse on Julia Domna before.
    Yes it's portraying Athena Promachos, the 9 meter tall bronze colossus that stod next to Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athen. Earlier variants, like the Syracuse AE posted by @Alegandron most probably inspired the Julia Domna version. The statue was later moved to Constantinople and was unfortunately destroyed during the fourth crusade. The statue in the National Archaeological Museum in Naple is an Roman imitation of the Athenian bronze colossus.
  10. ancientone

    ancientone Well-Known Member

    Sweet Athena from a rare city @Shea19! And bonus with Aegis!

    Athena ready for battle....

    normal_athens.jpg Achaea. Attica, Athens. AE22

    Achaea. Cyclades, Melos. Demos / Palladium AE24

    Caria, Antiochia ad Maeandrum. AE20 Pseudo-autonomous

    Thessaly, Koinon of Thessaly. Hadrian. Æ20

  11. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    That is a very special Domna. Congratulations.
    My favorite Athena/Minerva is a Septimius Severus 'Emesa' denarius (so not a Provincial since it was made in the East to fund the civil and Parthian wars) where she is shown with an owl. I thought it might be unique but CNG sold another last year. That is what usually happens with coins you thought were rare.

    'Emesa' was fond of this goddess showing her in several other poses. None are common.
    rg3760bb3223.jpg rg3780nt3474.jpg rg3800bb2347.jpg rg3810bb0730.jpg rg3820bb0841.jpg


    I don't have a Domna Provincial with Athena but this is Septimius from Callatis (with owl).

    Caracalla from Serdica (with snake)

    Geta from Serdica (with Nike)
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  12. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Wow, what a catch, @Shea19! The style and detail on both sides are absolutely terrific!

    Athena feeding a snake on a tree, from Anchialus, a mirror image of Doug's Caracalla from Serdica:

    Maximinus Thrax - Anchialus AE28 Athena unpublished2.JPG MAXIMINUS THRAX
    AE29. 10.47g, 29.1mm. THRACE, Anchialus, AD 235-238. AMNG II -; Varbanov -. O: AVT MAΞIMEINOC EVCEBHC AVΓ (ligate), laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind. R: OVΛΠIANΩ-N ΑΓΧΙΑ/Λ/E/ΩN (ligate), Athena standing right, holding spear in right hand and patera in left hand, from which she feeds serpent coiled around tree to right.
  13. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Here is the same statue from the OP - this time it was in the Getty Villa for a special exhibition!

    Picture taken by me
    Pentax K1000
    50mm, f/1.4
    Kentmere Pan 100
    img130-1 (2020_11_18 03_38_31 UTC).jpg
    And here's the same pose from the side, just on a cell phone camera.
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  14. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I only have one Athena coin, which is similar the the Parthenos pose.
    Caracalla Athena Nikopolis (2020_11_18 03_38_31 UTC).JPG

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  15. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for the info Victor, I appreciate it. I didn't realize that a gorgon is one of the defining features of an aegis, that level of detail is often not shown on coins. I think that it most likely is a gorgon on my coin...pretty cool detail.
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  16. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks! I was expecting the surfaces to be much rougher, and was very pleasantly surprised when I got the coin in hand. Leu's photo of the coin wasn't great, and I think that ended up saving me some money on the coin. :) I love that Gigantomachy bronze, it's one of my favorite reverse scenes. I need to get one!

    @Alegandron Great examples...very interesting to see that same image across so many cultures. I especially like that Zoilos drachm, great coin!

    @Ryro, Thanks! I love that 3 Graces reverse, and I always enjoy the "reverse" on Venus.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2021
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  17. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    Wow :jawdrop:! Lovely portrait & stunning reverse.
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  18. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Absolutely fantastic coin Shea19, have not seen in that great condition, congrats. AA_Tridrachm_3 (6).jpg
    Hadrian, Cilicia Aegeae, circa 117 AD. AR Tridrachm 9.6 gm, GIC 1218. Toned. Athena stg. holding patera and shield, spear at side, goat at feet to left. Von Aulock 5449.
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  19. Ignoramus Maximus

    Ignoramus Maximus Well-Known Member

    That's a stunning reverse with a great Athena Promachos! I love the detail on the aegis. Congratulations!

    My Athena Promachos: pyrrhos.jpg

    And here, on a free day, Athena just being Athena. I fell for the reverse: Lysi-Athena.jpg Lysimachos 2.jpg

    Since there's a lion on the shield it's, technically speaking, not an aegis.
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  20. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

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  21. ambr0zie

    ambr0zie Dacian Taraboste

    Exceptional coin.
    Here is my only Julia Domna provincial, by no means a rival for Shea19's coin

    PISIDIA, Antiochia. Julia Domna. Augusta, AD 193-217. Æ 23mm 5.34 g . Draped bust right / Tyche standing left, holding rudder and cornucopia. SNG France 1126-34
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