Coins of Roman Egypt
Greek Dates


The gods and goddesses of the Greco-Roman pantheon appear regularly as reverse types on the coins of Alexandria. As would be expected in this center of Greek culture, the forms, attributes and names are always Greek, rather than Roman.

The deities are described in alphabetical order except for Zeus and Hera who, as the dominant divinities of the pantheon, head the list. Only those gods and goddesses found on the coins of Roman Egypt are included. In each instance, the identifying Greek name is followed by the divinity's Roman name in parentheses. Included in the descriptions are identifications with Egyptian gods, where such were made during Roman times.

Zeus (Jupiter) was father of the gods, and wielded supreme power. The thunderbolt and scepter are his most common attributes. First appearing on the coins of Nero, he rapidly became one of the commonest coin types. In Egypt he was usually identified with Sarapis, Ammon and Re. At Silsilis, he was identified with the god Nephotes. He was gradually superseded in importance, to some extent, by Sarapis. Later feeling that Zeus was perhaps no more than an aspect of Sarapis was best exemplified by the Emperor Julian's statement that Sarapis was "one with Zeus, Hades and Helios."

Hera (Juno) was consort of Zeus. In her own right, she was goddess of childbirth and special protector of women. In her Roman form of Juno, she has a particular interest to numismatists as the protector of coin mintage. The Roman mint was established in her temple from earliest times. She was regarded as a strong-willed and jealous goddess. In Egypt she was often identified with the Egyptian divinities Sati (consort of Khnum), and with Mut (consort of Amen). Her only common representation is as a bust type of Hera Argeia, on the "games series" of tetradrachms of Nero. Her standing figure, accompanied by a peacock, occurs on a few extremely rare bronzes of Julia Domna, and on a unique tetradrachm of Crispina, in the author's collection.

Plate IX presents four varying bust types of Zeus, as they occur on tetradrachms. All are common except that of Antoninus Pius which depicts an upright thunderbolt before the bust. This last type is extremely rare. The Zeus Nemeios and Zeus Olympios types of Nero were issued as a part of his "games series." The plate is completed by two rare types of Zeus-Ammon. His standing figure on the half-drachma, is accompanied by the "hell hound" Kerberos, an assimilated attribute of Hades.

The upper row of Plate X presents Zeus seated, holding a thunderbolt, on a hitherto unpublished tetradrachm of Julia Domna, together with tetradrachms of Maximinus and Hadrian depicting Zeus seated and standing. The specific type of the Hadrian piece is extremely rare. The center row consists of drachmas of Antoninus Pius, showing Zeus seated, as well as Zeus reclining above an eagle with outstretched wings. Both types are quite common. Below these will be found a common tetradrachm of Nero, showing the bust of Hera Argeia, and a unique tetradrachm of Crispina, depicting the standing figure of Hera, accompanied by a peacock.

Aphrodite (Venus) was the goddess of beauty and love. Popular as was her cult in Alexandria, she appears as a rare coin type only on coins of Marcus Aurelius and his family. In Egypt she was identified with the goddess Hathor. Apollo (Apollo) was quite an important member of the pantheon, being not only a sun god, but patron of music, arts, prophecy, and flocks and herds as well. Surprisingly, he is not one of the commoner coin types. Identified with the Egyptian Horus, he seems to have been constantly overshadowed by the native divinity. Although introduced early in the history of the Alexandrian coinage, by Nero, Apollo did not survive the reign of Antoninus Pius, as a coin type.

Plate XI shows the lone type of Aphrodite, on a tetradrachm of Faustina II, together with several types of Apollo. The three tetradrachms of Nero depict successively the bust of Apollo, the bust of Apollo Aktios, and the bust of Apollo Pythios. All are common. The last two types form a part of the "games series." On the last row will be seen a tetradrachm of Pius depicting Apollo Didymaios standing (facing forward), and a drachma of the same issuer, showing Apollo Didymaios standing between the Nemeseis. This last type is quite rare.

Ares (Mars) was the god of war. As might be expected, his representations on the coinage were quite frequent, and extended over a long period of time. Although not appearing till the reign of Trajan, Ares then continued rather regularly as a coin type till the coinage was discontinued by the reforms of Diocletian. His commonest representation is as a standing figure. In Egypt, Ares was assimilated to the warrior god Horus of Sebennytos, an ancient native divinity. On the coin types, however, the "foreign" type prevails.

Artemis (Diana) was variously worshipped as moon-goddess, divinity of the chase, and patroness of youth. The coinage portrays her only as huntress goddess, with a single type, on coins of Trajan, Hadrian and Pius. These coins are all rather scarce. Her Egyptian identifications were with the goddesses Bastet and Pakhet, although their influences were lacking in her coinage type.

Plate XII shows Ares standing, on tetradrachms of Aurelius and Claudius II. The first of these is extremely rare. Below these will be found drachmas of Pius and Trajan, depicting the advancing figure of Ares, on that of Pius, while the coin of TraJan shows Ares standing with Athene. In the lowest register will be found a rare tetradrachm of Pius, with Ares seated on a cuirass, together with a common tetradrachm of the same emperor, depicting Artemis running.

Asklepios (Aesculapius) was the god of healing and medicine. As such, he had a very important position in Alexandria, where healing was a significant aspect of the philosophical development of religion. His history as a coin type closely parallels that of Ares, although he first appears one reign later, on issues of Hadrian. He is usually shown standing beside an altar. The Egyptians identified-him with Imhotep, a deified vizier and wise man of the early dynastic period. The pantheistic Sarapis usually incorporates attributes of Asklepios.

Athene (Minerva) was goddess of wisdom and war strategy, of arts, and (in Alexandria, at least) was guardian of equity in commerce. Her attributes on the Alexandrian coinage were many and varied. She was the goddess who was perhaps most commonly represented as a coin type. Introduced by Augustus, in his fortieth Alexandrian year, she persisted till Diocletian's reform. Athene was particularly important to the Egyptians, due to the persistant legend that Athens had originally been founded as a colony of the Egyptian city of Sais. Hence Athene was usually identified with the goddess Neith of Sais. A less common identification was with Taurt of Oxyrhynchos.

The first three coins of Plate XIII show types of Asklepios. His standing figure appears on a tetradrachm and on a drachma both of Severus Alexander. His bust is shown as it appears on a tetradrachm of Volusian. The remaining three coins of Plate XIII show the bust of Athene from a tetradrachm of Severus Alexander, Athene seated with a small figure of Nike, as depicted on a tetradrachm of Gallienus, and Athene standing holding a figure of Nike, as depicted on a drachma of Hadrian.

Plate XIV continues the types of Athene. A very rare tetradrachm of Gordian I shows the standing Athene holding spear and shield. On a drachma of Hadrian, she holds corn ears and shield. Below these are two tetradrachms of Pius, showing Athene of Sais holding an owl and a shield, and Athene Stathmia with scales and cornucopiae. The plate is completed by two extremely rare pieces. The drachma of Trajan depicts Athene standing between an altar and a column which supports a bust of Zeus. The half-drachma of Pius portrays the standing figure of Athene-Tyche.

Demeter (Ceres) was goddess of corn production. She was a popular coin type during the empire's first two centuries, but disappears after the reign of Antoninus Pius. The commonest type is of her standing figure, hoIding torch and corn ears. She was occasionally identified with the Egyptian goddess Isis.

Dionysos (Bacchus) one of antiquity's theological paradoxes, was (among other things) god of fertility in nature, god of wine, and patron of wanderers and adventurers. He enjoyed some prominence in Egypt, as protector of the Dionysiac artists at Alexandria. A rare issue of drachmas of Pius depicts his bust, while somewhat more common coins of Trajan and Hadrian show his reclining figure in a car drawn by two panthers.

The first row of Plate XV shows the bust of Demeter on a tetradrachm of Pius, and the standing figure of Demeter on a tetradrachm of Hadrian. Both types are quite common. In the second row will be found two extremely rare coin reverses. A half-drachma of Pius shows the standing figure of Demeter, while a drachma of Trajan depicts Demeter standing with Euthenia, on either side of a decorative column. The third row begins with an obol of Domitian which has the unusual type of the head of Demeter upon the body of a uraeus serpent. Only one other specimen of this coin is known to me. The plate is completed by a rather common drachma of Trajan which portrays Dionysos reclining in a panther-drawn car.

The Dioskouroi (Dioscuri) had a position in Egypt that differed somewhat from that in the Greco-Roman world. In Alexandria they seem to have been worshipped principally as gods of the sea and of navigation. As such, they were often associated with Isis Pharia. No identification seems to have been made with purely Egyptian gods. Introduced as a coin type by Trajan, they last occurred on a rare issue of Commodus.

Eos (Aurora), goddess of the dawn, enjoyed only ephemeral popularity at the Alexandrian mint. She is found only as a single type of Marcus Aurelius and his family. She was not identified with any Egyptian goddess.

Helios (Sol), the sun god, is usually depicted wearing a radiate crown. He is not found as a coin type until the reign of Hadrian, but appears rather regularly thereafter, through the reign of Diocletian. His popularity at the mint seemed to vary with the general popularity of the solar cult at the imperial court. In Egypt he was identified with Horus, and during later reigns, with Hermanubis.

Plate XVI shows the reverses of drachmas of Trajan and Hadrian, both of which portray the Dioskouroi. On the coin of Trajan, they hold the bridles of horses, which are seen in the background. These pieces are followed by an unpublished drachma of Lucius Verus which portrays a haloed Eos holding a spirited dawnhorse. To the right of this piece is a tetradrachm of Hadrian showing a conventional bust of Helios. The lowest row of the plate consists of two tetradrachms. That of Severus Alexander (as Caesar) shows the bust of the compound Helios-Hermanubis. The extremely rare coin of Pius shows the jugate busts of Helios and Selene.

Herakles (Hercules) was a popular hero of Greek mythology who had been awarded divinity after a lifetime of incredible exploits. Introduced by Domitian as a coin type, he occurs sporadically through a period ending with the reign of Septimius Severus. After remaining dormant for nearly 100 years, the type was revived for tetradrachm reverses of Maximian. Herakles was identified with Harpokrates, in Egypt. (A beautiful series of coin types depicting the labors of Herakles will be treated in the chapter "Mythology and the Zodiac.")

Hermes (Mercury) was given an amazingly heterogeneous group of attributes by the ancients, being patron of artists, travelers, merchants, orators and thieves as well as serving as messenger of the gods. Although found sporadically from Hadrian to Diocletian as a coin type, his representations are generally quite rare. In Egypt he was identified with Anubis, and is usually represented by the compound form of Hermanubis. He was also identified with the Egyptian gods Thoth and Pautnuphis.

Hygieia (Salus) was goddess of health, safety and welfare. On the coinage, she is usually associated with Asklepios. The only known representations of Hygieia alone, occur during Severus Alexander's -reign on very rare bronze drachmas, and on drachmas of Hadrian's nine teenth year, of which only two are known. These coins of Hadrian were struck from dies executed by two different artists, although the basic type is the same. One of the two known specimens, illustrated in the present article, is hitherto unpublished. In Egypt, Hygieia was identified with the goddess Hathor.

Kybele (Cybele), mother of the gods, originated in the Orient. She was always depicted on the Alexandrian coinage seated between two lions. During the reign of Pius she was a rather common type, but is encountered only as a rarity on the coinage of Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus and Caracalla.

Pan (Pan) was a rustic god of the hills and of shepherds and herds. He was considered to have a lustful and goatish character. He is found as an Alexandrian coin type only on the tiny dichalka of Hadrian's eleventh year. He was sometimes identified with the Egyptian god Min, warden of the desert from very ancient times.

On Plate XVII will be found two types of Herakles standing, as they occur on tetradrachms of Maximian. The center row shows the very rare type of Hermes standing, as it occurs on a tetradrachm of Gallienus, and the unpublished drachma of Hadrian (discussed above), depicting Hygieia feeding an agathodaemon serpent which rests upon a column. Below these will be found a drachma of Pius showing Kybele seated between lions, and a dichalkon of Hadrian with the type of Pan advancing.

Poseidon (Neptune) was god of the sea. Nero used the bust type of Poseidon Isthmios, as a part of his "games series" of tetradrachms. Somewhat rarer coin types of Poseidon occur from time to time under Hadrian and the "adoptive emperors" until early in the reign of Marcus Aurelius. A brief revival occurs during the three year period which ended the reign of Gallienus and inaugurated that of Claudius II. These last are quite scarce.

Selene (Luna) was goddess of the moon and of the arts of magic. She was closely associated with Helios, and had approximately the same history as a coin type. With a single exception, the coins depict her bust only, rather than her full figure. Frequently, her bust is found jugate with that of Helios.

Triptolemos (Triptolemos) was stimulator of corn growth, and distributor of corn seed. His single coin type depicts him in a car drawn by two winged serpents, holding a sack of seeds. He occurs infrequently during the reigns of the adoptive emperors, from Hadrian through Marcus Aurelius, is then revived under Philip, and emerges for the last time as a rare type of the last year of Diocletian. He was identified with the Egyptian Osiris.

At the top of Plate XVIII will be found the bust of Poseidon Isthmios on a tetradrachm of Nero, and the standing Ogure of Poseidon on a tetradrachm of Gallienus. These are followed by the bust of Selene, as it occurs on tetradrachms of Hadrian and Otacilia Severa. This last piece is heretofore unpublished. The plate is completed by two representations of Triptolemos in a car drawn by serpents. The first is from the reverse of a tetradrachm by Hadrian, while the second is from a drachma of Faustina Jr.




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