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, 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. 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; 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, 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" 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, 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: 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 220.127.116.11 corr. (rev. legend); Mionnet Sup. 2, p. 134, 457 and pl. III, no 6. Notes: 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. 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.