Roman Coins From Sri Lanka

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by JayAg47, May 7, 2021.

  1. JayAg47

    JayAg47 Well-Known Member

    My ancient coin collection is like 50% European (80:20 Roman and Greek), and the other half Asian (mostly South Indian). So when I came to know the ancient Tamil region and Sri lanka traded with the Romans, and that they even produced imitations of Roman coins, I knew I had to have one, as these coins will really bridge my East-West coinage!

    Back in the days, merchant ships from Rome would sail using the monsoon winds to South India and stay in the local Tamil kingdoms of the Pandyas, Cheras, and Cholas for months do trade goods, Romans would bring glassware, wine, gold and silver, and buy pepper, pearls, ivory, and it's even possible that they got the tigers from the tropical forests to take back to Rome!
    There was even a Temple for Augustus built in the Chera port city of Muziris, as described on the 4th century map of Tabula Peutingeriana.
    So not only the Roman culture was familiar with the natives, but also their coinage, while there are extensive records of 1st century coinage, there isn't much of trade from the 2nd and 3rd century, but there is a resurgence from Constantine era, as even Julian the Apostate recieved ambassadors from the Pandya king around 361 AD.

    Here are some of them from the British museum!
    Roman aurei excavated from Tamil Nadu region
    and a native imitative coin based on Gloria Exercitus

    While I prefer a gold or even a silver imitative coin, my pocket isn't deep enough, so I had to look for the bronze issues, but it was not easy to hunt them down as well! few of the coins I saw online were prized exorbitantly, like this coin from Leu Numismatik!

    Luckily I came across a couple of coins on Ma-shops from Ancient Coins Canada, after talking back and forth with the dealer Alexander Fishman, I got a deal for these lot of coins!
    These particular coins came from an unnamed hoard from Sri Lanka, they are dated around 5th century AD when Sri Lanka was ruled by the Pandu kings of the Pandya lineage, and must have been in circulation until the 7th century. These are crude and weighs between 0.8-1.5 grams, while the official coins weigh between 2-3 grams.

    First coin is based on the FEL TEMP REPARATIO aka fallen horseman type, weighing 0.89 grams, the reverse is mirrored, my guess is the engraver just copied the official coin in the die and when struck, the coin came out like this. I find the style on this coin simple yet elegant.

    Second is a coin based on the Gloria Exercitus type, what I like about this coin is that the engraver's attempt to copy the Latin words! It weighs 1.55 g.

    This one is curious, the reverse was probably copied from a cross, however we see a Swastika, an auspicious symbol for the Hindu/Buddhist religions. Here we see the locals taking in the Roman culture, however they knew to separate the religion! It weighs 0.82 g.

    I also got an official Roman coin from one of the hoards, looks like Constans from the Heraclea mint! this coin has traveled nearly 5000 miles from the place of its origin! 1.73 g

    And this coin smooth as a pebble that weighs 2.3 g!

    Post anything relevant!
    Last edited: May 7, 2021
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  3. Matthew Kruse

    Matthew Kruse Young Numismatist

    No ancient coins from Sri Lanka here, but I feel this is relevant. :)

    1909 Ceylon 10 cents, Edward VII
    Its pretty beat up but still a cool coin. Only 1,000,000 minted. (.800) silver

    Sri Lanka was a British colony from 1815-1948 and it was called Ceylon.

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  4. Alegandron

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


    Sri Lanka,
    excavated in Anuradhapura
    Anonymous, 1st C. BCE
    PB 1/8 Lakshmi
    1.1g, 14.1mm x 7.8mm
    OBV: Hindu Goddess Lakshmi facing. She is the goddess of wealth, fortune, and prosperity. She was a beauty and the wife of Vishnu
    REV: (blank)
    Comment: "Lakshmi (Sanskrit: लक्ष्मी, lakṣmī,ˈləkʂmiː) is the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. She is the wife and shakti(energy) of Vishnu, a major god in Hinduism.[2] Lakshmi is also an important deity in Jainism and found in Jain temples.[3] Lakshmi was also a goddess of abundance and fortune for Buddhists, and was represented on the oldest surviving stupas and cave temples of Buddhism.[4][5] In Buddhist sects of Tibet, Nepal and southeast Asia, goddess Vasudharamirrors the characteristics and attributes of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi with minor iconographic differences."

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Thanks, @JayAg47, for a very enlightening writeup and some coins to match (Congrats!)! It's a really cool gestalt to consider how vast the scale of cultural and economic interchange was in ancient times. (Yeah, the Aksumites were trading in India, and likely further east, from at least the 3rd c. CE, but they were already on the Horn of Africa.)
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  6. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Excellent write-up! Well done on acquiring some of these. I bought mine back in 2015, and has been a fun little oddity to share with my students:

    01-SL-Anon-AE-RI-01.jpg Indo-Roman
    Anonymous 5th C. A.D.
    AE Naimana Type, 13.12mm x 0.7 grams
    Obv.: Bust right, with dots representing legend
    Rev.: Cross within wreath
    Note: An imitation of Roman coinage
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  7. arnoldoe

    arnoldoe Well-Known Member


    sold for only $80 less than a lot of 400 of them lol,,
    maybe it was even in the lot..
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  8. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    Very nice write-up. I definitely learned something new. And you know, it's hard to teach old dogs new tricks.
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  9. singig

    singig Well-Known Member

    Very interesting presentation and coins.
    This is my only coin from the region , it came in a lot of roman coins.
    I took me a long period to identify it.

    British India , Madras Presidency , Silver Double Fanam(1764-1802).KM#308
    Obv: single standing deity Vishnu,
    Rev: interlocking letters 'C' presumed to be for King Charles II
    9 mm/ 1.6g
    india fanam.jpg
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