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.
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
(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gradually superseded in importance, to some extent, by Sarapis.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."
(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.
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.
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.
(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.
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
(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.
(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.
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
(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.
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.
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.
(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.
(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.
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.
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.
(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
(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.
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.
(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.")
(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.
(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.
(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) 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.
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.
(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.
(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) 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.
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.