Lions and tigers and panthers, oh my!

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Feb 19, 2019.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Earlier this month, we had a discussion of the various animals depicted on coins that might have been displayed in the Colosseum. During the course of that thread, a discussion arose about the semantics of the term panther. Rather than hijack that thread or @David Atherton 's new thread about rhinos in the Colosseum, I thought I'd start a new one about big cats and how they were classified by the ancient Greeks and Romans who wrote about such things.

    Post your coins with BIG CATS!

    The Greeks and Romans knew about lions and indeed, the "king of the jungle" appears on many different coins in antiquity. Their languages include specific terms to distinguish this cat from other species, λέων in Greek and lĕo in Latin. Here are a few coins depicting lions in my collection.

    Caracalla Nikopolis ad Istrum assarion lion.jpg
    Caracalla, AD 198-217.
    Roman provincial Æ assarion, 1.92 g, 15.4 mm, 2 h.
    Moesia Inferior, Nicopolis ad Istrum.
    Obv: MAP AV K ANTΩNIN, bare head, right.
    Rev: NIKOΠOΛITΩ / ΠPOC IC, lion advancing right.
    Refs: Varbanov 3007; Moushmov 1111; AMNG 1599.

    Severus Philippopolis lion.jpg
    Septimius Severus, AD 193-211.
    Roman Provincial Æ (diassarion?) 17.7 mm; 4.06 g.
    Thrace, Philippopolis.
    Obv: ΑV Κ Λ CΕVΗΡΟC, laureate and draped bust right.
    Rev: ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΠΟΛΕΙΤ-ΩΝ, lion walking left; ox's head before.
    Refs: Moushmov 5274 var. (lion walking right); Varbanov 1305.

    Similarly, the Greeks and Romans had a separate word for tiger, τίγρις and tigris, respectively. This coin clearly depicts a tiger[1]; it is much stockier than the panther type, below, and the ruff around its neck and the stripes on its body and tail are clearly depicted.

    Gallienus LIBERO P CONS AVG tiger antoninianus.jpg
    Gallienus LIBERO P CONS AVG tiger closeup.jpg
    Gallienus, 253-268 AD.
    Roman Æ Antoninianus, 2.63 g, 20.8 mm, 5 h.
    Rome Mint, 10th emission, 267-268 AD.
    Obv: GALLIENVS AVG, radiate head right.
    Rev: LIBERO P CONS AVG, tiger walking left, B in exergue.
    Refs: RIC 230K; Göbl 713b; Cohen 586; RCV 10281; Cunetio 1341; Hunter 112.

    There is a third type of cat, known by the catch-all term panther, which doesn't refer to a specific species in English, either. The Greek word πάνθηρ, taken into Latin as panthēra, has a broad semantic range and appears to have been applied to any of various non-tiger, non-lion big cats, such as leopards, "black panthers," and so forth. The term includes, but is not quite synonymous with, πάρδαλις (later form πάρδος), taken into Latin as pardus. These words come from the Greek and Roman words for "spotted"[2] and refer specifically to a spotted big cat and most likely refers to the leopard, but the word would probably have been used for a cheetah if that creature had been known to the ancients.

    Here is a panther. Ostensibly, this looks like the tiger coin shown above. Indeed, RIC and Göbl don't distinguish the panther type from the tiger type and lump these coins together under the same number: RIC 230 and Göbl 713 (with a letter adscription to distinguish bust varieties). But, as Jim Phelps argues while writing about the coins of this issue, there are two types, an unmarked cat with a sleek build (the panther type) and a tigress type. I think you'll agree.

    Gallienus LIBERO P CONS AVG panther antoninianus.jpg
    Gallienus, 253-268 AD.
    Roman Æ Antoninianus, 2.65 g, 20.1 mm, 5 h.
    Rome Mint, 10th emission, 267-268 AD.
    Obv: GALLIENVS AVG, radiate head right.
    Rev: LIBERO P CONS AVG, panther walking left, B in exergue.
    Refs: RIC 230K; Göbl 713b; Cohen 586; RCV 10281; Cunetio 1341; Hunter 112.

    And here's Dionysus (Liber Pater)with a panther:

    Domna Nicopolis Dionysos and panther.jpg
    Julia Domna, AD 193-217.
    Roman provincial Æ tetrassarion, 13.76 g, 26 mm.
    Moesia Inferior, Nicopolis ad Istrum; Legate Aurelius Gallus, AD 201-204.
    Obv: ΙΟVΛΙΑ ΔΟ-ΜΝΑ CΕΒΑ, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: VΠ ΑVΡ ΓΑΛΛΟV-ΝΙΚΟΠΟΛΙΤΩΝ | ΠΡΟC ΙCΤΡΟ, Dionysos standing left,
    naked except for boots, holding bunch of grapes and thyrsos, panther at foot left.
    Refs: AMNG I 1456; Varbanov 2897; H&J, Nikopolis corr. (rev. legend); Mionnet Sup. 2, p. 134, 457 and pl. III, no 6.


    1. All the major numismatic catalogs and references call the animal depicted a panther, from 18th century works such as Banduri and Sulzer, to Cohen, RIC, and Sear. For entertainment value, here is the illustration and description of the coin in Banduri (published in 1718), whose illustration seems to depict a striped animal, even though the term panthera is used.

    Gallienus LIBERO P CONS AVG panther antoninianus Banduri illustration.JPG Gallienus LIBERO P CONS AVG panther antoninianus Banduri listing.JPG

    2. Some etymologies (i.e. Wikipedia) will state that "leopard" comes from λέων (lion) and πάρδος (male panther), but I believe that to be incorrect. Not that πάρδος doesn't mean a male panther--it does--but πάρδος specifically means SPOTTED large cat. In "leopard," the -pard refers to the spotted nature of the beast, not to the fact that there is a spotted beast called a pardos. An analogous English situation is that we call certain pied cats calicos. A calico is a cat, to be sure, but calico doesn't ONLY mean cat; it primarily refers to a pied pattern of colors, but has come to refer to a pied cat by extension. This women's calico coat isn't made out of cat fur; calico is a color. "Leo-pard" doesn't mean lion-panther, it means spotted lion.

    For example, the Greek word for giraffe is καμηλοπάρδαλις (camelopardalis in Latin). This is a compound of καμηλο- (camel) and πάρδαλις (spotted). A giraffe is described as a spotted camel. No one in their right mind would claim a giraffe means camel-panther.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2019
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  3. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    kool coins RC...:).. i have a few lion coins that i forget about until someone posts theirs so thanks!'s one of Herienius Etruscus from Moesia Superior Vinimacium... Hernninus Etruscus Mosia Superior Vinimcum 001.JPG Hernninus Etruscus Mosia Superior Vinimcum 002.JPG
  4. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Well-Known Member

    Question.. and I ask this because I don't know the answer..
    The Gallienus coins in question all have the legend: LIBERO P CONS AVG .. which refers to the god Liber - which I believe is the Roman version of Dionysus.
    Dionysus is depicted regularly with a big cat of some description (as per your example). Would the answer be found by determining what that animal is within the mythology and not relying on the coin image as we know that liberties are taken by die cutters (some of which may not have seen the real animal)? Perhaps someone like @Jochen could clarify?
    Pellinore and Roman Collector like this.
  5. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    Thrace, Pautalia. Geta. CEΠT ΓETAC K, bare-headed, draped, and cuirassed bust right / OVΛΠIAC ΠAVTALIAC, lion walking right. Varbanov 5391.
    Thace, Pautalia, Geta.jpg
  6. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    Panther with thrysus on an extremely rare Roman Republic, AR Sestertius of T. Carisius, 46 BCE (Crawford 464/7), ex RBW Collection:

    Carisia Sestertius.jpg
  7. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Nice coins. That Gallienus with tigress is simply incredible! It's easy to forget how much detail some of these coins originally had!

    Important to note is that lions were widespread thoughout not just Africa, but much of Europe too until the historic Greek and Roman periods. While they were already well into decline by the end of the stone age, they were present in Greece in significant numbers during the early Roman period, being finally driven to extinction around the end of the Constantinian period.

    That probably explains why they are so common on Greek coins, when they weren't being shipped off to the Colosseum for fights

    Lydia croesus siglos.jpg Miletos 1-12 stater.jpg Kyzikos hemiobol.jpg imgonline-com-ua-twotoone-LMmNJGIYqi5.jpg Lycia Perikles helios.jpg
  8. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Dionysus is depicted with a variety of big cats. "The bull, serpent, tiger, ivy, and wine are characteristic of Dionysian iconography. Dionysus is also strongly associated with satyrs, centaurs, and sileni. He is often shown riding a leopard, wearing a leopard skin, or in a chariot drawn by panthers, and may also be recognized by the thyrsus he carries." From this Wikipedia article.

  9. Marsman

    Marsman Well-Known Member

    My roaring lion from officina I again :)

  10. Jochen

    Jochen Well-Known Member

    Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Caracalla, AD 198-217
    AE 17(?)
    obv. AV K M. - ANTWNINo
    Laureate head r.
    Lioness walking r.
    ref. a) not in AMNG
    b) not in Varbanov
    c) not in Hristova-Hoeft-Jekov (2018):
    rev. No. (for the type only)
    obv. e.g. No. var. (has AV K M A)
    Leu Numismatik, Web Auction 6, Lot 481, Dezember 2018

    Was described in error as "Bear walking r." Because of the raised tail I think it is rather a lion than a panther. Because of the missing mane I vote for a lioness. What do you think?

    Any suggestion highly appreciated.

  11. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    It's not a bear; bears have short, stubby tails. While it could be a tiger, I think it's a lioness stalking prey while in a crouching position, a companion to the one I posted above, which I'll repost here for ease of comparison:

    Caracalla, AD 198-217.
    Roman provincial Æ assarion, 1.92 g, 15.4 mm, 2 h.
    Moesia Inferior, Nicopolis ad Istrum.
    Obv: MAP AV K ANTΩNIN, bare head, right.
    Rev: NIKOΠOΛITΩ / ΠPOC IC, lion advancing right.
    Refs: Varbanov 3007; Moushmov 1111; AMNG 1599.
  12. Jochen

    Jochen Well-Known Member

  13. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Just looking at this AE coin of Chach, Tarnavch (late 7th-early 8th cent. AD), the obverse would seem to show a lion but the animal more likely to have been seen wandering in the wilds of that region might have been the snow leopard. The art level of this original cast issue makes that hard to prove either way.
  14. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Another lion special to me is this AE4 of Leo I.

    I have always been attracted to lion coins and have more than you want to see.

    What do I think? This one is on my want list. I have plenty of male lions.
  15. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!


    My first lion, from an early Gitbud-Naumann auction. The lion is very realistic, more so than many I had seen at the time.
    LUCANIA, Velia
    305-290 BCE
    AR didrachm, 17.5 mm, 7.3 gm
    Obv: Head of Athena right, wearing crested helmet, decorated with griffin; at left, A
    Rev: YEΛHTΩN; lion standing on exergual line; above dolphin between I and Φ
    Ref: SNG ANS 1375-6

    Oldest lion:
    KINGS OF LYDIA, temp. Ardys - Alyattes
    630-564 BCE
    Electrum trite, 4.8 gm, 13.4 mm. Sardes mint.
    Obv: head of roaring lion right, sun with four rays on forehead
    Rev: two incuse square punches
    Ref: Weidauer Group XV, 64; BMC 2

    Smallest lion:
    CARIA, Mylasa
    450-400 BCE
    AR hemiobol, 7 x 9 mm, 0.5 gm
    Obv: facing forepart of lion
    Rev: scorpion within incuse square
    Ref: SNG von Aulock 7803; Klein 429 (Milet)

    Gallienus, sole reign
    CE 260-268
    Antoninianus, Rome mint
    Obv: GALLIENVS AVG, radiate head right
    Rev: LIBERO P CONS AVG, striped tigress standing left; B in exergue
    Ref: RIC V 230 (Sole reign)

    Off topic, sort of-- but I had to complete Dorothy's triad :D... a bear:
    MYSIA, Hadrianothera. Hadrian
    After CE 123
    Æ 16 mm, 2.30 gm
    Obv: AΔPIANOC AYΓOYCTOC; bare head right
    Rev: AΔPIANOΘHPITN; head of she-bear left
    Ref: AMNG 565; SNG France 1091; RPC 1629. Rare.

  16. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    I think I have the Septimius version of Jochen's lioness. It's obviously not the "horse grazing" of Varbanov 2219 that I thought it was, but maybe Varbanov mis-identified the animal on his coin.
    Septimius Severus - Nicopolis Horse 858.jpg

    Pan stomping on Panther, from Nicopolis... one of my favorite provincials. Not that I condone animal cruelty, of course! :D
    Elagabalus - Nicopolis Pan Panther.jpg

    Another favorite big cat depiction... lion chomping on a spear, on a hemidrachm of the Oitaioi of Thessaly.
    Thessaly Oitaioi - Hemidrachm.jpg

    Colosseum kitty from the Rome's 1000th Anniversary celebrations.
    Philip the Arab - 1000th Lion 3085.jpg
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  17. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Nice coins and write-up! Also, I always enjoy your snippets from Banduri.

    Here are some more lions (and lion scalps):

    Lycian lion:
    Griechenland – Lycia, Perikles, third stater, lion, triskeles.png
    Dynasts of Lycia, Perikles, AR 1/3 stater, ca. 380–360 BC: Obv: Lion scalp facing. Rev: PERIKLE in Lycian script; triskele. 14mm, 2.76g. Ref: SNG von Aulock 4254–5.

    Lion from Troas:
    Griechenland – Troas, Antandros, Löwe.png
    Antandros, Troas, AE11, 4th–3rd c. BC. Obv: Laureate head of Apollo r. Rev: Roaring lion's head r. 11mm, 1.90g. Ref: SNG Copenhagen 218. (seller's picture)

    Herakles wearing lion skin headdress:
    Makedonien – Alexander, Tetradrachme, Herakles:Zeus.png
    Alexander III "the Great," Kingdom of Macedonia, Ar tetradrachm, 325–323 BC, Amphipolis mint (under Antipater). Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin. Rev: ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ, Zeus Aëtophoros seated left; in left field, rooster standing left. 26mm, 17.17g. Ref: Price 79; Troxell 1997, issue E3. Ex CNG, e-auction 376, lot 47; ex Tiberius collection; ex AMCC 1, lot 39.

    Another hercules with lion skin headdress:
    Rome – Republican Quadrans, M ATILI, Heracles:Prow .png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: M. Atilius Serranus, AE quadrans, 148 BC, Rome mint. Obv: Head of Hercules r.; behind, three pellets. Rev: Prow r., above, M . ATILI (die break); below, [ROMA]. 17mm, 4.16g. Ref: Crawford 214/5a. Ex Savoca, Blue Auction 16, lot 913.

    A lion from Norman Sicily:
    MA – William the Good 2.png
    William II "the Good", Norman Kingdom of Sicily, follaro, bronze 1166–1189 AD, Messina or Palermo mint. Obv: Lion's head left. Rev: Kufic script: "al-malik Ghulyalim al-thani" ('King William the second'). 14mm, 1.87g. Ref: Spahr 118.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2019
  18. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    IONIA, MILETUS 2.jpg

    MYSIA MYSIA Kyzikos 2.jpg
    MYSIA Kyzikos A.jpg
    Cherronesos Cherronesos 2.jpg

    Pantikapaion Pantikapaion 4.jpg

    GALLIENUS Gallienus 14.jpg
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  19. octavius

    octavius Well-Known Member

    A couple of my "cats" ... Teate - lion, and Percival. 4Ycfs2JQWXo79NLby3GG52fXZa8p6T.jpg IMG_20160331_170229.jpg
  20. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    Lions n tigers, why..
    giphy-2.gif CollageMaker Plus_201846165158865.png inCollage_20190206_190238242.jpg CollageMaker Plus_2018129183522957.png CollageMaker Plus_2018102817541236.png CollageMaker Plus_2018428204322202.png CollageMaker Plus_201846164912382.png Screenshot_2019-02-13-20-22-50.png CollageMaker Plus_2018107144633833.png
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2019
  21. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    We are hungry:

    Velia (stag)

    Velia (chunk of meat)

    Byblos 1/8 stater (goat?)

    Tarsos (bull)
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