Temple Teaser

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Oct 28, 2020.

  1. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    My latest coin is a neat little provincial struck for Vespasian at Sardis, Lydia. Despite the weak obverse, the bold reverse sold me.

    RPC1308.jpg Vespasian
    Æ Assarion, 3.36g
    Sardis, Lydia mint, no magistrate's name
    Obv: ΟΥƐϹΠΑϹΙΑΝΟϹ ΚΑΙϹΑΡ; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.
    Rev: ϹΑΡΔΙΑΝΩΝ; temple with four columns
    RPC 1308 (1 spec.).
    Acquired from Forvm, October 2020.

    A decently rare assarion struck at Sardis, Lydia sometime under Vespasian. The lack of a magistrate's name makes it difficult to pin down an approximate date, although it may have been produced chronologically before the coins that are signed with a magistrate's name. The structure on the reverse possibly could be the famous Temple of Artemis at Sardis, which was the fourth largest ionic temple in the ancient world. The temple had to have been a great source of civic pride for the citizens of Sardis and naturally would have been a superb choice for a reverse type for their coinage. Although, it must be noted, the temple depicted on the coin bares little resemblance to the archaeological remains. More promisingly, the mysterious structure on the coin has been attributed to a pseudodipteral temple recently discovered within the archaeological remains of the city (Ratte, Howe, Foss, 1986).The temple dates to the First century and has tentatively been identified with the imperial cult.

    Here is a restored view of the Temple of Artemis.


    And how it appears today.


    Feel free to post your 'temple' coins!
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2020
    Edessa, PeteB, Carl Wilmont and 11 others like this.
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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    There are numerous temples depicted on coins, particularly on Roman Provincials. Many times, however, the numismatic and literary evidence is all that remains of these once mighty structures, the temples long torn down and their material reused for other projects.

    This coin suggests that there may have been a Serapeum in Moesia Inferior, well-known to the inhabitants of the province, with a cult statue of Serapis posed in the manner depicted on this and similar coins. If so, online search engines reveal no mention of archaeological remains of such a structure.

    Caracalla and Domna Markianopolis Temple of Serapis.jpg
    Caracalla with Julia Domna, AD 198-217.
    Roman provincial Æ Pentassarion, 25.5 mm, 12.01 g, 7 h.
    Moesia Inferior, Marcianopolis, Quintilianus, legatus consularis, AD 212-217.
    Obv: ΑΝΤΩΝΙΝΟC ΑVΓVCΤΟC ΙΟVΛΙΑ ΔΟΜΝΑ, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Caracalla right vis-à-vis draped bust of Julia Domna left.
    Rev: VΠ ΚVΝΤΙΛ-ΙΑΝ ΜΑΡΚΙΑ-NΟΠΟΛΙΤΩ-Ν, Tetrastyle temple with peaked roof and clipeus in pediment, statue of Serapis within, standing left, raising right hand and holding scepter; Є (mark of value) to left of Serapis.
    Refs: AMNG 689 var.; H&J Marcianopolis, (same dies); Varbanov 1049; Moushmov 508; SNG Evelpides 812 var.; Lindgren II 713 var.; BMC 3. 30, 19 var.; SNRIS Marcianopolis 09

    The pose adopted by the figure of Serapis within the temple is stylized: standing left, raising his right hand, and holding a scepter. This coin produced for the nearby town of Odessos depicts Serapis in the same pose:

    Gordian III with Tranquillina, AD 238-244.
    Roman provincial Æ Pentassarion; 26.1 mm, 13.33 g, 6 h.
    Moesia Inferior, Odessos.
    Obv: ΑVΤ Κ Μ ΓΟΡΔΙΑΝΟC ΑVΓ CЄ - ΤΡΑΝΚVΛ-ΛЄΙΝΑ, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Gordian III right, vis-à-vis diademed and draped bust of Tranquillina left.
    Rev: ΟΔΗΞ - CЄΙΤΩΝ, Sarapis standing left, raising right hand and holding scepter; E (mark of value) in left field.
    Refs: AMNG I 1696; Moushmov 1696; Varbanov 4599; SNRIS Odessus 15 (a9).

    At the outset of his reign, Caracalla declared divine support for the Egyptian deity Serapis, a god of healing. The temple of Isis and Serapis in Alexandria was apparently renovated during Caracalla's co-rule with his father Septimius Severus. Upon Caracalla's ascension to sole ruler in 212, the imperial mint began striking coins bearing Serapis' image. This was a reflection of the god's central role during Caracalla's reign. Here is an example:
    Caracalla, AD 198-217.
    Roman AR denarius, 2.9g, 19mm, 6h.
    Rome, issue 10, AD 217.
    Obv: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG GERM, laureate head right.
    Rev: PM TRP XX COS IIII PP; Serapis, wearing polos on head, standing facing, head left, holding wreath and scepter.
    Refs: RIC 289c; BMCRE 188; Cohen/RSC 382; RCV 6846; Hill 1586.

    Claire Rowan[1] notes Caracalla's coinage is marked by a high proportion of Apollo, Serapis and Aesculapius types and argues that the coins are representative of Caracalla's "medical tourism." She explains that the emperor considered himself in poor health and traveled to various sites across the empire and sought healing at temples and shrines to these gods, which were then displayed on his coinage. Such may well be the case with the coin of Marcianopolis I posted above.

    Certainly Dio[2] draws attention to Caracalla's supposed poor health and his reliance on the gods:

    But to Antoninus no one even of the gods gave any response that conduced to healing either his body or his mind, although he paid homage to all the more prominent ones. This showed most clearly that they regarded, not his votive offerings or his sacrifices, but only his purposes and his deeds. He received no help from Apollo Grannus, nor yet from Aesculapius or Serapis, in spite of his many supplications and his unwearying persistence. For even while abroad he sent to them prayers, sacrifices and votive offerings, and many couriers ran hither and thither every day carrying something of this kind; and he also went to them himself, hoping to prevail by appearing in person, and did all that devotees are wont to do; but he obtained nothing that contributed to health.​


    1. Rowan, Clare. Under Divine Auspices: Divine Ideology and the Visualisation of Imperial Power in the Severan Period. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013, pp. 112-163.

    2. Cassius Dio. Roman History: in Nine Volumes, (trans. Earnest Cary). Heinemann, 1917-1924. 78.15.5-7.
  4. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Nice coins and writeups. Great reads for the morning. Thanks! :happy:
    David Atherton and Carl Wilmont like this.
  5. Mr.Q

    Mr.Q Well-Known Member

    Great show and tell thanks a lot.
    David Atherton and Carl Wilmont like this.
  6. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Nice temple, David. Any temple is a good temple, as far as I am concerned.

    Here is a recent one I got in a lot. As RC notes, the actual structure on these can be kind of hard to pin down, at least I didn't have any luck with it, though the coin is fairly common.

    Tarsus - Pseudo-Auto temple lot Aug 2020 (0).jpg

    Pseudo-Autonomous Æ 19
    Cilicia, Tarsus
    n.d. (2nd Century A.D.)

    ΤΑΡСΟV Μ[ΗΤΡΟΠΟΛЄ]OC Tyche turreted, veiled & draped bust right / Decastyle temple, with eagle in pediment and ΚΟΙΝΟC ΚΙΛΙΚΙ on architrave, A C across field.
    RPC III 3305; Ziegler 670-1; SNG BN 1435-6; SNG Levante 1007 var. (obv. legend).
    (4.67 grams / 19 x 17 mm)

  7. Carl Wilmont

    Carl Wilmont Supporter! Supporter

    Interesting posts. Here's a depiction of the Augusteum of Panias on the reverse of a coin of Herod Philip issued for Caesar Augustus.

    Herod Philip Augustus Augusteum.jpg
    Judaea, Herod IV Philip, with Augustus, Æ20. Caesarea Philippi (Panias), dated RY 12 of Herod Philip (8/9 CE). Laureate head right; countermark: star(?) / Tetrastyle temple (the Augusteum of Panias); L I B (date) between columns. Meshorer 97; Hendin 1221; RPC I 4940. 8.88g, 20mm.
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