The New Dionysos of Athens

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Pavlos, Oct 14, 2020.

  1. Pavlos

    Pavlos You pick out the big men. I'll make them brave!

    Many people who think about the coinage of Athens think of the famous owl and Athena, they go hand in hand and are found on pretty much all the coins of Athens (except on the so-called obscure "Wappenmünzen" series).

    But I have here a coin of Athens representing a whole different kind of divine deity, Dionysos:
    ATTICA. Athens. 39-37 BC. (Bronze, 18.5 mm, 4.75 g, 12 h). Head of youthful Dionysos to right. Rev. A-ΘE Athena advancing to right, holding spear with her right hand and aegis. Kroll 140. Svoronos pl. 25, 29.
    From the Vineyard Collection, ex Classical Numismatic Group 50, 23 June 1999, 732.

    To explain this we will zoom in to a much later period of Athens, way after the time of the democracies.
    In October 42, Brutus and Cassius were defeated at Philippi (Macedonia) by Mark
    Antony and Octavian. While Octavian returned to Italy, Mark Antony remained in Greece and set sail for Athens. Before Mark Antony decided to spar with Octavian,
    Antony visited Athens at least four times in the years between the Battle of Philippi and the Battle of Actium. The city even served as his headquarters between 40 and 36 BC, during which he was accompanied by his newly-wed wife Octavia (Octavian’s sister).

    CNG Triton XXII, Lot: 963.
    Mark Antony. Summer 32 BC. AR Denarius. Athens mint.

    Antony offered amnesty to the Athenians and he seemed to have engaged with
    Athens’ cultural life, also supporting Athens economically, and even wished to be addressed as φιλαθήναιος (friend of Athens) (Plut. Ant. 23.2).
    The Athenians responded accordingly by bestowing several honors onto Antony, antony’s wife Octavia was also honored, as is apparent from an inscription on an altar from the Agora which was dedicated to both Antony and Octavia:

    Ἀν̣τωνίου καὶ Ὀ
    κτα̣ίας δυῖν θε
    ῶν εὐεργετῶν
    To Antonius and Octavia, both gods and benefactors.

    Antony himself was honored as the (new) god Dionysos in Athens, Seneca the Elder describes that: “the Athenians came to him on his arrival with their wives and children, and saluted him as Dionysos”. Furthermore, the Panathenea festival in 38 BC was celebrated in honor of “Antonius, the new god Dionysos”.

    Why the god Dionysos was chosen for Antony remains unclear. Dionysos was already known amongst the Athenians as the bringer of prosperity and new life. During the Anthesteria spring-festival for example, the Athenians celebrated the arrival and sacred marriage of Dionysos with the wife of the archon of Athens, making Dionysos the king of Athens.
    An adapted form of this ritual was perhaps also performed upon Antony’s arrival in
    Athens, because Seneca the Elder records that: “they [the Athenians] went on to say that they were offering him their Minerva [Athena] in marriage, and asked him to marry her”.

    Looking at my newly obtained bronze coin, numismatic evidence also demonstrates the connection between Antony and Dionysos. The Athenian coins are often characterized as traditional, as they tend to depict Athena and an owl. During Antony’s stay in Athens the mint started to strike coins with Dionysos on the obverse. When taking into account the historical development of Athens’ bronze mint, it becomes apparent that this was the first and only appearance of Dionysos on Athenian bronzes.

    Three coin types, dated between 39 and 37 BC (coinciding with Antony’s stay in Athens), of which at least 102 specimens have been preserved, are known from the excavations of the Athenian Agora (Kroll (1993), 85, 102–103.).

    Please post your coins of Mark Antony and coins of Athens!
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

  4. ominus1

    ominus1 Supporter! Supporter

  5. Alegandron

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

    Very nice write up, @Pavlos and very nice coins!

    I do not have one of Antony at this time. However, here is one from his Wife who was stirring up a lotta muck in Rome when Antony was over that way!

    RImp Marc Antony 43 BCE AR Quinarius 13mm 1.67g Lugdunum Winged bust Victory-probly Fulvia Lion DVNI LVGV Cr 489-5 Syd 1160
    Edessa, Orielensis, Bing and 6 others like this.
  6. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Wonderful write up and dazzling coins:artist::wideyed:
    Interesting how we are so grateful for all that did survive to represent the ancient Greek way of life via Athens. As their coinage wasn't nearly as artistic nor diverse as say a place like Syracuse (or anywhere on Sicily will do). Imagine how much philosophy, poetry, architecture etc we missed out on thanks to war and time:nailbiting:
    Anyways, here's MA and Augustus reconciling on s little coin and one of his wife:woot::
    20190327_115400_6D8BA529-E749-4399-9C32-08DDC6867FFF-469-00000051B054BFE8.png 1147436_1587828054-removebg-preview.png

    Ps, so nice of @Bing to share his only Marc Antony with us;)
  7. Pavlos

    Pavlos You pick out the big men. I'll make them brave!

    Great coins all! P.S. the only coin that is mine is the top one where the write up is about. The second coin I would wish was mine but was just as an example to show that Mark Antony minted denarius in Athens.

    Indeed, there are a lot of things that happened 2500 years ago that if it didn't happen would have changed the whole world history forever.
  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Cool coin, and excellent writeup!
    Most probably because he liked to knock back a drink or fifteen on occasion. :D According to Pliny, Antony wrote a book about his own drunkenness. From Plutarch's Life of Antony we have him portrayed as:
    "... promptly resorting to drinking and intoxication"
    "... the enjoyment of suppers and drinking-bouts..."
    "[Curio] in order to make Antony more manageable, engaged him in drinking bouts..."
    "They loathed his ill-timed drunkenness, his heavy expenditures, his debauches with women, his spending the days in sleep or in wandering about with crazed and aching head..."
  9. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    Interesting write-up! That's certainly an unusual Athenian coin. The depiction of Antony as Dionysus seems kind of fitting to me, though.

    My only Athenian bronze coin can rightfully be described as "crude" in the FSR sense of the word:
    Magna Graecia – Attika, Athen, AE13, Athene und zwei Eulen im Kranz.png
    Attica, Athens, AE 13, ca. 322–307 BC. Obv: head of Athena with Attic helmet r. Rev: two owls standing on thunderbolt; below, ethnic AΘE; all in olive wreath. 13mm, 2.10g. Ref: SNG Copenhagen 92–93; Kroll: Greek Coins (1993), no. 44 var.; BMC 537–540.
    ominus1, Edessa, Ryro and 4 others like this.
  10. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    The arrival of the new Dionysos was the final death knell of the NewStyle coinage in silver and bronze. After the 3rd and final Mithradatic wars the number of NewStyle obverse's begins to drop off the wall and soon begins to appear to be a personal small striking, sort of commemorative coinage. The striking of Roman denerii in Athens rendered the Athenian standard coinage redundant.

    A known Athenian, Diokles minted 3 issues of very late Newstyles, naming his last 2 issues as Diokles for the second (3 obverses) and Diokles for the 3rd ( time) (2 obverses).

    This very rare late NewStyle is of Diokles for the 2nd time within a few years of the arrival of the new Dionysos. I bought it from e-bay for £160 incl. p&p!

    Athens New Style Tetradrachm c 47 BC
    Obs : Athena Parthenos right in tri-form helmet with tr-partite earings
    27mm 17.04gm Thompson (new) issue 105
    Thompson catalogue: Obs: I260 Rev:NEW
    Rev : ΑΘΕ ethnic
    Owl standing on overturned panathenaic amphora on
    which month mark A: control ΣΩ below
    2 magistrates : DIOKLES TO DEY MEDEIOS
    RF symbol : Hygieia
    All within a surrounding olive wreath
    ominus1, Edessa, Ryro and 3 others like this.
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