Featured The “Roman” Caduceus challenge

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, Jan 10, 2020.

  1. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    I was lately classifying my Roman coins by iconographic elements ; patera, paludamentum, cornucopiae, standards, etc...and caduceus. I have never noticed I own half a dozen of them. They say “curiosity killed the cat”. But the cat has 9 lives, hasn’t it ? So I was wondering where this staff comes from. Did some research, lots of reading and here’s the results:

    The caduceus is a rod, entwined at one end by 2 snakes, each of whose bodies folds again in the form of two half-circles, whilst the head passes above the wand. It is derived from the Greek karykeion or "herald's staff", itself based on the word "eruko" meaning restrain, control.


    Prudence is generally supposed to be symbolized by these two serpents, and the wings which are sometimes added to the caduceus, are the representation of diligence. It was an attribute peculiar to the Roman god Mercury. But centuries before that time, the caduceus was one of the attributes of the god Hermes in Greek mythology. Besides Hermes, the goddess Iris was also represented with a caduceus because she was the messenger of Hera, female counterpart of Hermes, messenger of Zeus.

    Detail on a vase, Hermes holding caduceus (5th century BC)
    Musée du Louvres

    Another vase, Hermes holding caduceus (4th century BC)
    British Museum

    But the famous staff seems to get his origin in Mesopotamia back to 4000 BC to 3000 BC. The Sumerian god Ningishzida is often depicted holding a staff with two snakes intertwined around it. Originally it was only a stick decorated with ribbons that floated in the wind, replaced over time by the famous snakes.

    Vase depicting The god Ningishzida (21st century BC?)

    The caduceus symbolizes everything related to trade and transport, even alchemy:another hypothesis explains that the two serpents facing each other symbolize the elementary substances that are sulfur and mercury when they are in perfect balance...
    The caduceus should not be confused with the staff of Asclepius (or Aesculapius, in its Roman version) around which only one snake coils, symbolizing the snake that this ancient god walked. While the staff of Asclepius is a symbol of medicine in Europe, the caduceus of Hermes represents medicine in America. So in conclusion, the “roman caduceus” was in fact borrowed from several other ancient cultures.
    4th century BC, Phoenicia. British Museum

    Please search your collection and show us your caduceus coins !

    Philip I

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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Trajan Decius

    nervatet.jpg Nerva

    Type: Billon Tetradrachm, 25mm, 12.7 grams, mint of Alexandria year 96-97 A.D.

    Obverse: Bust of Nerva facing right, KAIS SEB AVT NEPOVAS

    Reverse: Agathodaemon serpent coiled with head right, holding caduceus and grain ear within coils, wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt. In exergue, LA.

    Reference: Milne 542, Dattari 638 (rare)
  4. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Informative write-up on an interesting item frequently seen on Roman coins!

    Here is a Macedon kerykeion:
    Makedonien – Alexander der Große, AE, Schild und Helm.png
    Alexander III "the Great" (postumous issue), Kingdom of Macedonia, AE half-unit, 323–315 BC, Salamis mint. Obv: Macedonian shield, with facing gorgoneion on boss. Rev: B-A; helmet; kerykeion to left, monogram (sigma and iota?) to right. 15mm, 3.89g. Ref: Price 3159.

    A Republican caduceus:
    Römische Republik – Denar, Norbanus, Venu::Ähre, fasces, caduceus.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: C. Norbanus, AR denarius, 83 BC, Rome mint. Obv: C. NORBANVS; head of Venus, diademed, r.; to l., control number LXXIII; banker’s mark: cornucopia? Rev: ear of wheat, fasces, and caduceus. 19mm, 3.53g. Ref: RRC 357/1b. Ex Bing collection.

    On Roman Imperial coins, it's in most cases Felicitas who is holding a caduceus:
    Rom – Caracalla, denar, Imperii Felicitas.png
    Caracalla, Roman Empire, denarius, 196–198 AD, Rome mint. Obv: M AVR ANTON CAES PONTIF; bareheaded bust of Caracalla r. Rev: IMPERII FELICITAS; Caracalla, Felicitas standing l., holding caduceus and child. 18mm, 3.53g. Ref: RIC IV,1 Caracalla 9.

    Rom – Philip Arabs, Antoninian, Felicitas.png
    Philip I "the Arab," Roman Empire, antoninian, 248 AD, Rome mint. Obv: IMP PHILIPPVS AVG, bust of Philip I, draped and radiate, r. Rev: P M TR P V COS III P P, Felicitas standing facing, head l, holding caduceus and cornucopia. 22mm, 3.84g. Ref: RIC IV,3 Philip I 6. Ex Brian Bucklan.

    Rom – Postumus, Antoninian, Felicitas.png
    Postumus, Gallic Roman Empire, AR antoninian, 263–266 AD, Trier mint. Obv: IMP C POSTVMVS P F AVG; bust of Postumus, radiate, draped, cuirassed, r. Rev: FELICITAS AVG; Felicitas, draped, standing l., holding caduceus in r. hand and cornucopiae in l. hand. 23mm, 2.71g. Ref: Mairat 265/317.; RIC V Postumus 58. Ex Ken Dorney.

    Somewhat strangely, Mercury is not that often depicted on Roman Imperial coins. If he is, though, he usually holds a caduceus and a purse or patera.
    Rom – Herennius Etruscus, Antoninian, Merkur.jpg
    Herennius Etruscus, Roman Empire, AR antoninianus, 251 AD, Rome mint. Obv: bust of Herennius Etruscus, radiate, draped, r. Rev: PIETAS AVGG; Mercury, nude except for cloak on shoulders, standing l., holding purse and caduceus. 20mm, 3.17g. Ref: RIC IV Trajan Decius 142. Ex JB collection; ex AMCC 2, lot 201 (their picture).
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2020
  5. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    Kyzikos pseudo-autonomous issue:

    Mysia, Kyzikos AE20 5.33g 1st century AD
    Head of Kore right, grain ear in hair; within a wreath of grain
    K-Y/ZI, caduceus, in the center of which is a gorgoneion, the handle is made of a club, crescent above, tunny below, monogram right; all within a laurel wreath.
    RPC I 2240; SNG Copenhagen 86; BMC Mysia pg. 40, 170; SNG von Aulock 1245
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  6. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    You're right Ocat', when you start counting them you find a bunch :










  7. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Thrace, Abdera.jpg
    OBVERSE: Griffin springing left
    REVERSE: Magistrate's name around linear border, within which head of Hermes l., caduceus before; all in incuse square
    Struck at Abdera 411-385 BC
    2.780g, 15mm
    May 279
    AE 19
    OBVERSE: Turreted head of Tyche right; A behind. Circle of dots REVERSE: ΚΩΡΥΚΙΩΤΩΝ, Hermes standing left, holding caduceus, ΕΥ/ΕΠΙ/ΕΡ in left field
    Struck at Cilicia 1st century BC (100-30 BC)
    5.87g, 19.42
    SNG Levante 792; SNG France 1075
    C Norbanus 2.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: C• NORBANVS, head of Venus right, wearing stephane, earring, and necklace; XVIIII behind
    REVERSE: Prow-stem, fasces, caduceus and grain ear.
    Rome 83 BC
    3.9g, 18mm
    Crawford 357/1a. Sydenham 740. Norbana 1
    Q. SICINIUS.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: FORT P.R, diademed head of Fortuna right
    REVERSE: Q. SICINIVS below, III. VIR across field, caduceus and palm in saltire, laurel wreath above
    Rome 49 BC
    3.64g, 17mm
    CR 440/1; Sicinia 5
    D Junius Brutus Albinus 1.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: Hd of pietas r; PIETAS
    REVERSE: Clasped hands on caduceus; ALBINVS BRVTI.F
    Rome 48 BC
    3.91g. 19mm
    Syd 942
    Augustus 7.jpg
    AE Quadran
    OBVERSE: LAMIA SILIVS ANNIVS, clasped hands holding caduceus
    REVERSE: III VIR A A A F F around large S C
    Rome 9 BC
    3.0g, 15mm
    RIC 420, BMC 200, S 1693
    Claudius 3a.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: TI CLAVD CAESAR AVG P M TR P VI IMP XI, laureate head right
    REVERSE: PACI AVGVSTAE, Pax-Nemesis advancing right, drawing out fold of robe at neck, holding caduceus above serpent preceding her
    Struck at Rome, 46/7AD
    3.6g, 19mm
    RIC39, BMC40
    Vespasian 10.jpg
    Æ Dupondius
    OBVERSE: IMP CAES VESP AVG P M T P COS V CENS, radiate head left
    REVERSE: FELICITAS PVBLICA S-C, Felicitas standing facing, head left, holding caduceus & cornucopiae
    Struck at Rome, 74AD
    10.2g, 28mm
    RIC 716, (RIC [1962] 555), Cohen 152, BMC 698
    Ex: J.Q. Adams
    Titus 7.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: T CAES IMP VESP CENS, laureate head right, "o" beneath neck
    REVERSE: FIDES PVBL, hands clasped over caduceus, two poppies and two corn-ears
    Struck at Uncertain Asian Mint or Ephesus, 76AD
    2.9g, 19mm
    RIC V 1485 (Vesp), RPC 1459
    Ex David Atherton; ex Harry Sneh Collection; ex Sayles; ex Lavender
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  8. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Marcus Aurelius / Mercury - Miracle of the Rain issue

    Nerva dupondius

    Gordian III / Hermes Nikopolis
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  9. Fugio1

    Fugio1 Supporter! Supporter

    Here are a couple of Early Roman Republican denarii with the Caduceus symbol:
    Caduceus (early) - Denarius, Crawford 60/1
    Denomination: Denarius
    Era: c. 211-208 BC
    Metal: AR
    Obverse: Helmeted head of Roma R; X behind. Border of dots
    Reverse: Dioscuri riding r.; Caduceus symbol below.; ROMA in raised letters in frame. Line border
    Mint: Unknown mint in central Italy
    Weight: 4.72 gm.
    Reference: RRC 60/1
    Provenance: Aureo & Calico Alba Longa sale, November 7, 2018; Ex. The Goodman Collection, Triton I, December 2-3, 1997, lot 892.
    Caduceus (Later) - Denarius, Crawford 108/1
    Denomination: Denarius
    Era: c. 211-208 BC
    Metal: AR
    Obverse: Helmeted head of Roma r. with splayed visor; “X” behind; Border of dots
    Reverse: Dioscuri r.; Below, caduceus symbol; in linear frame, “ROMA”.
    Mint: Uncertain
    Weight: 4.37 gm.
    Reference: Crawford 108/1
    Provenance: NAC 84, Part II, 21-MAY-2015
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  10. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix...Nice interesting write up thanks!.......
    I have one Caduceus...
    Valerian I AR Antoninianus.Rome AD 255-256 ...2.93g
    Obverse..IMP C P LIC VALERIANVS PF AVG, radiate, draped bust right
    Reverse..FELICITAS AVGG, Felicitas standing left holding caduceus and cornucopiae.
    RIC 87, Cohen 55; Sear 9936.
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  11. tenbobbit

    tenbobbit Supporter! Supporter

    Pamphylia, Sillyum
    Obverse - laureate, draped & cuirassed bust Right
    Reverse - Hermes naked but for some sweet Winged boots seated on rocks, holding Purse & Caduceus
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  12. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    A cast sextans and a piece of the same sextans.
    Cast Sextans TV5 shell caduceus rev.jpg
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  13. Ryro

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

    Wonderful write up and all around excellent examples of an easily ignored or missed piece of iconography.
    Here's my examples of karykeion on Macedonian shield coins:
    23D4AD36-52DF-4872-9167-BA1AC838864D.jpeg 34EE7D16-398C-4FD5-A685-87D94C8EB87A.jpeg FD59A289-CC26-41D0-A3F4-35CAB5ABEF61.jpeg 56191F5E-885E-46C6-BDBD-0285D0B4564D.jpeg A775842A-7DB8-48EF-92A7-64F5C13A45AA.png 9B67405A-1B47-4817-90C3-9BE632B3B641.png A3EAEEAB-7050-40B5-8E9B-EB75EB060472.png
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  14. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Smiles, everyone! Supporter

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  15. Nathan401

    Nathan401 Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Supporter

    Good ‘ole Antonio D2DB0CD7-95B5-45D5-B2C6-19C5AE6A7C29.jpeg 71FC06D9-EB3D-41CC-BA7E-B098B6106F87.jpeg
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  16. dadams

    dadams Supporter! Supporter

    I thought for sure I had at least one, but I guess not:
    I've enjoyed seeing all the coins here and many thanks for that great bit of research!
  17. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    I have a few.

    Vespasian ric 27.jpg
    Vespasian RIC 29.jpg
    vespasian ric 544.jpg
    vespasian ric 1475.jpg
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  18. Carl Wilmont

    Carl Wilmont Supporter! Supporter

    JUDAEAN. Roman Governors. Valerius Gratus (15-26 AD). AE Prutah. Dated 16/17 AD, RY 3 of Tiberius (14-37 AD). KAI CAP within wreath. / TIBEPIOY above; crossed cornucopias; caduceus between. Meshorer 320; Hendin 1334; RPC I 4960.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2020
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  19. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I have umpteen of Felicitas. Here's one of my favorites:

    Volusian as Augustus, AD 251-253.
    Roman orichalcum sestertius, 17.26 g, 27.4 mm, 10 h.
    Rome, AD 252.
    Obv: IMP CAE C VIB VOLVSIANO AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: FELICITAS PVBLICA S C, Felicitas standing left, leaning on column, holding caduceus in right hand and transverse scepter in left hand.
    Refs: RIC 251a; Cohen 35; RCV 9786; Hunter 39.
    Notes: Ex- Pegasi Buy or Bid Sale 151 (2/21/2017); ex- Hoffman collection.

    And here's a coin of Mercury with the requisite caduceus:

    Gallienus, AD 253-268.
    Roman silvered billon antoninianus, 4.25 g, 21.3 mm, 11 h.
    Antioch, AD 267.
    Obv: GALLIENVS AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: FIDES AVG, Mercury standing right, holding marsupium (purse) and caduceus; PXV (=TR P XV) in exergue.
    Refs: RIC 607F; Göbl 1667k; Cohen 219; RCV 10212; Hunter p. lxx.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2020
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  20. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    My oldest coin with a caduceus on it :D.

    IMG_5919.JPG Reverse of NGC 4167455-013.JPG
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  21. Limes

    Limes Well-Known Member

    Great and very interesting write up @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix. I'm shocked that I don't have a caduceus reverse! I need one of these now, and fast. I do have the 'do not mistake it with the serpent entwined staff of Asclepius' type. But I won't post that one.
    Those really, really old vases are amazing too! Do you know where they are displayed?
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