Post any coins you feel are relevant! Asklepios (Latin: Aesculapius) was the god of healing in the ancient world. Legend tells us he was the son of Apollo and the Trikkaian princess Koronis (Latin: Coronis). His mother died in labor and when she was laid out on the pyre, Apollo cut the unborn child from her womb. From this, Asklepios received his name which means "to cut open." He was raised by the centaur Kheiron (Chiron), who instructed him in the art of medicine. He grew so skilled in the craft that he could restore the dead to life. This was a crime against the natural order and so Zeus destroyed him with a thunderbolt. After his death Asklepios was placed amongst the stars as the constellation Ophiuchus ("the Serpent Holder"). The snake of Asklepios (Latin: Aesculapius) is thought to be Zamenis longissima longissima, a constrictor harmless to man and feeding on small mammals. It can grow up to five or six feet long and is native to southern Europe, preferring open woodlands with glades and rocky areas, ruins and walls. On the one hand, the snake is considered as a chthonic being, associated with the underworld, the realm of death and many gods. On the other hand, the snake can be seen as a symbol of a healing force in that it was thought to revive itself by sloughing off its skin. There are myths of snakes possessing magic herbs with medicinal properties such as the legend of Glaucus (Apollodorus, The Library, III.iii). Glaucus was revived with herbs used by a snake after he had drowned in a vat of honey. Therefore, the serpent has been interpreted as a symbol that unites and expresses the dual nature of the work of the physician, who deals with life and death, sickness and health. In honor of Asclepius, Zamenis snakes were often used in healing rituals, and they crawled around freely on the floor in temples to Asklepios (called an Asklepion) where the sick and injured slept. The snakes were purposely introduced into the temple at the founding of each new Asklepion throughout the classical world. The origins of the Asklepios myth are obscure but may go back to the sixth century BCE at Tricca in Thessaly, where he was merely a minor deity. At any rate, Asklepios seems to have been associated with snakes from the beginning. The myth subsequently spread and, in previously existing healing sanctuaries and temples, he often supplanted other deities, such as Amphiaraus. Pausanias, in his Guide to Greece (II.26.7) says that the most famous sanctuaries to Asklepios, such as in Pergamum, had their origins in Epidaurus. It is from Epidaurus, too, that the cult reached Athens, arriving circa 420 BCE. The Athenians then dedicated the fourth day of the Eleusinian Mysteries to the Festival of Asklepios, called the Epidauria. Sophocles, the great tragedian, was closely involved with the introduction of the Asklepian cult into Athens, and housed the sacred snake which was sent from the Asklepion in Epidaurus. He made his own home the place of worship for Asklepios until Athens completed work on its own Asklepion. For this, Sophocles was honored with the title, Dexion, meaning “worthy one.” Other attributes of Asklepios include a goat, a dog, and a cockerel, but I won’t go into these, because I have no coins depicting Asklepios with these items (though please post any coins you may have that do!). The snake of Asklepios is usually depicted coiled round a staff which has had a variety of interpretations from being merely a travelling staff reflecting the itinerant life of the physician to being a symbol, perhaps with magical overtones, of the help and support available from the god. Asklepios is depicted with his serpent staff on these coins: Gordian and Tranquillina, AD 238-244 Roman provincial AE; 26.4 mm, 12.98 g Thrace, Anchialus, AD 241 Obv: Κ Μ ΑΝΤ ΓΟΡΔΙΑΝΟC ΑVΓ CΕΒ-[...], laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Gordian and draped bust of Tranquillina, wearing stephane, confronted. Rev: ΟVΛΠΑΝW[ΑΝ]ΧΙΑΛΕWΝ, Asklepios standing facing, head left, with serpent climbing staff to left. Refs: Moushmov 2936; AMGN II 665; Varbanov 672; SNG Copenh --; BMC Thrace -- . Septimius Severus, AD 193-211 Roman Provincial AE; 20.5 mm, 5.63 gm Bithynia, Nicaea AD 193-211 Obv: ΑΥ ΚΛ CΕΠ CΕΥΗΡΟC CEB, laureate head, r. Rev: ΝΙΚΑΙΕΩΝ, Asklepios standing facing, head l., holding serpent-staff. Ref: Waddington/Babelon/Reinach, Recueil général des monnaies grecques d'Asie mineure, no. 333, citing a retouched specimen in Milan, AE 21 with illegible obverse legend. Gallienus, AD 253-268 Roman billon Antoninianus; 2.24 g, 20.5 mm Antioch, AD 265-266 Obv: GALLIENVS AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust, r. Rev: CONSERVATOR AVG, Aesculapius standing l., leaning on staff with serpent. Refs: RIC 632 (sole reign); Cohen 140; Sear 10193; Hunter 208. Postumus, AD 260-269 Roman Billon Antoninianus; 2.84 g, 21.1 mm Cologne, AD 265-68 Obv: IMP C POSTVMVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust, r. Rev: SALVS AVG, Aesculapius standing facing, head l., holding snake-entwined staff; globe at feet, r. Refs: RIC 86; Hunter 85, 86; Cohen 336; Sear 10985; DeWitte 280. The Asklepian snake is not limited to Asklepios himself, however. Coins depicting the goddess Hygeia (Latin: Salus) typically depict her with Asklepian snakes as well. Hygeia is usually said to be the daughter of Asklepios, though there were others, such as Panacaea (mentioned with Hygeia in the Hippocratic Oath) and Iaso. Hygeia was the most important of the attendants of Asklepios and was said by some ancient authors to be not his daughter but his wife. She was a little apart from other members of the family and more on par with Asklepios himself. Hygeia, the “personification of health” is remembered today in the word, hygiene. Hygeia is depicted on numerous coins, typically feeding the sacred snake from a patera. Faustina Jr, AD 161-175 Roman provincial AE; 6.94 gm; 21.1 mm Thrace, Pautalia, AD 161-175 Obv: ΦΑVCΤΕΙΝ Α CΕΒΑCΤΗ, bare headed and draped bust, r. Rev: ΟVΛΠΙΑC ΠΑVΤΑΛΙΑC, Hygeia standing r., holding patera in l. hand, feeding snake wound around stele and extending head l. Refs: Ruzicka 127; Moushmov 4116. Gordian III and Tranquillina, AD 238-244 AE 4 Assaria; 26.6 mm; 11.27 gm Moesia Inferior, Tomis, AD 241. Obv: ΑVΤ Κ Μ ΑΝΤΩΝΕΙΝΟC ΓΟΡΔΙΑΝΟC ΤΡΑΝΚVΛI/ΝΑ, Confronted busts of Gordian and Tranquillina Rev: ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΝΤΟV ΤΟΜΕΩC, Hygeia standing, feeding snake from patera. Refs: Moushmov 2288; AMNG 3535; BMC -- Salus was an old Roman goddess that became identified with Hygeia. While the inscription SALVS appears on many Roman coins, this is often not in a true medical context, but rather in a broader political sense that peace, safety, and public well-being prevailed in the empire, such as on coins bearing the inscription, “SALVS REIPUBLICAE” (health of the empire). I will not go into these coins. As a goddess, however, like Hygeia, Salus is typically depicted seated or standing and feeding a snake from a patera. She appears on the following coins: Calligula AD 37-41 Roman provincial Æ 28 mm, 11.17 gm Carthago Nova, Spain, AD 37-38 Obv: C. CAESAR AVG. GERMANIC. IMP. P.M. TR.P. COS., laureate head of Caligula, right Rev: CN. ATEL. FLAC. CN. POM. FLAC. II. VIR. Q.V.I.N.C., head of Salus (some attribute to Caesonia, wife of Calligula) right, SAL AVG across field Refs: SGI 419; Heiss 272, 35; Cohen 247, 1; RPC 1, 185; SNG Cop 503. Lucilla, AD 164-169 Roman orichalcum dupondius; 11.49 g, 24.88 mm, 6:00 Rome, AD 166 Obv: LVCILLAE AVG ANTONINI AVG F, bare-headed and draped bust, right Rev: SALVS SC, Salus standing left, feeding snake arising from altar Refs: RIC 1761; BMCRE 1186; Cohen 67; RCV 5521. Maximinus I, 235-238 Roman AE Sestertius; 26.7 mm; 18.01 gm Rome, AD 236-238 Obv: MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG GERM, Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust, r. Rev: SALVS AVGVSTI SC, Salus enthroned l., feeding snake arising from altar. Refs: RIC-85; BMCRE-175, Sear-8338; Cohen-92.