fairly extensive range of animals, birds and reptiles appeared as
reverse coin types, along with a few mythological hybrids. In general,
most of these were confined to the bronze coins and few persisted
past the reign of Caracalla. Many are of particular interest because
of their identifications with religions of the period, while others
are associated with "nomes" or other geographical areas of Egypt.
With only two or three exceptions, all are native to Egypt or are
compounded life forms with contemporary religious significance.
XXXVIII portrays a group of mythological beasts. The first
illustration is of a capricorn from a diobol of Augustus. This was
borrowed from the regular Roman coinage and had no special significance
for Egypt. The type had a zodiacal implication for Augustus himself.
It did not long survive his reign.
next two types are of griffins, which seem to have had a greater
religious significance at Alexandria than has generally been supposed.
Introduced first by Nero, they are commonly encountered on the bronze
coinage thereafter, persisting till the final bronze issued under
Claudius II. It is quite interesting to note that bronze drachmas
of Hadrian went so far as to depict a griffin temple. The first
of our illustrations show a seated griffin, as it occurs on an extremely
rare diobol of Commodus (as Caesar). This is followed by a seated
griffin as depicted by an unpublished half-drachma of Marcus Aurelius.
In spite of the rarity of these two coins, the type itself is quite
plate is completed by three representations of sphinxes. An unpublished
half-drachma of Pius' third year depicts a type that is rare for
the coinage, although commonly encountered in ancient Egyptian sculpture.
A drachma of Hadrian shows a seated sphinx in the form most commonly
found as a coin type. The final illustration also from a drachma
of Hadrian, portrays an unusual compound sphinx engaged in trampling
a serpent under foot. The sphinx does not occur as a coin reverse
till the reign of Domitian, and does not seem to have survived the
reign of Pius.
find on Plate
XXXIX a random group of animals. The Apis bull, as shown
on the diobol of Hadrian, had a deep religious significance in Egypt.
Originally conceived as an embodiment of an aspect of the god Ptah,
the sacred animal had evolved into an object of veneration of a
baser sort, with a broad appeal to the more ignorant elements of
the population. Apis had a particular importance at Alexandria,
and was identified with the Sarapis cult. The sacred bull is found
on bronze coins of various denominations, from Nero to Septimius
second diobol of Hadrian depicts a butting bull. As was the case
with the capricorn, this motif has no Egyptian connections, and
was borrowed from the Roman coinage. It is found on early coins
of Augustus, and continues to appear sporadically on medium bronzes
till the time of Hadrian.
the center section of the plate, we find an elephant and a hippopotamus.
The first is from an obol of Trajan, while the second is from a
tetradrachm of Hadrian. Both are common types. The "hippo" was well
known along most of the Nile valley, and the elephant was occasionally
seen (in Roman times) on parts of the upper Nile. The hippopotamus
was one of the few zoological types to appear on tetradrachms. The
elephant disappears from the coins during the reign of Pius, but
the hippo persisted till midway in the reign of Severus Alexander.
next illustration is of a lion, as it occurs on an obol of Pius
of unpublished date. This was one of the more popular animal types,
and is found on diobols, as well as on smaller denominations. The
motif is found first under Trajan, and disappears under Commodus.
During the Roman period, lions still roamed the deserts of upper
final types of Plate
XXXIX are of a panther and a stag, both from obols of Hadrian.
These types occur only on obols and dichalka, are not found after
the reign of Pius, and seemed to have had little or no local significance.
actual and legendary, are found on Plate
XL. The first four illustrations depict varying ways of
representing the eagle. Originally adopted from the Ptolemaic coinage,
this bird gradually acquired closer and closer Roman ties, until
it was identified with the legionary totem. It occurs persistently
from the first issues of Augustus till the final year of Diocletian,
and was the only zoological type to become standard for the tetradrachms.
The first coin illustrated, a tetradrachm of Aemilian shows an eagle
standing with wings open. This is one of the commonest representations,
although the specific coin of Aemilian is very rare. The following
type, from a tetradrachm of Gordian III, portrays an eagle flying,
holding a wreath in its talons. The next two types identify the
eagle in its legendary function. The first, a tetradrachm of Aurelian,
shows a vexilla on either side, while the second, an unpublished
type of Julia Domina (under Septimius Severus), represents the eagle
as enshrined upon an altar, between standards.
tetradrachm of Antoninus Pius, which follows, portrays the legendary
Phoenix. The Greek legend "AIWN" clearly identifies this type as
commemorating the end of a Sothic cycle. Found only on tetradrachms
of Pius, the Phoenix is nevertheless fairly common.
final two bird types are shown by an obol of Hadrian and a dichalkon
of Domitian. The first of these depicts a hawk. Not only was this
bird quite common in the Nile Valley, but it also had a special
religious significance because of its identification with Horus.
The hawk is a common type on the smaller bronzes, from Nero through
the reign of Pius. The other reverse shows an ibis, sacred to the
god Thoth. A bird common to Egypt, the ibis, is found on dichalka
from midway in the reign of Augustus till midway in the reign of
final group of zoological types, including reptiles and sea animals,
will be found on Plate
XLI. The first five portray the two sacred serpents, the
agathodaemon and the uraeus. Both serpents are found in Egyptian
religion from earliest times, and the uraeus was always closely
associated with the divine kingship of the pharoah. During the Roman
period, the agathodaemon was identified with Sarapis, while the
uraeus was sacred to Isis. Two coins of Nero depict conventional
representations of the agathodaemon, at the top of the plate. The
tetradrachm is quite common, while the diobol is very rare. Below
these will be found the two serpents facing each other, as shown
on a drachma of Hadrian. The serpent types are completed by an interesting
motif from a diobol of Domitian which depicts the agathodaemon riding
upon the back of a galloping horse. On the bottom row will be found
a dichalkon reverse of Claudius, which depicts a crocodile. Sacred
to Harpokrates, the crocodile occurs as a coin type from Augustus
to Pius, but only on the dichalka.
next illustration of Plate
XLI is of a dolphin, twined about a trident, as found on
an obol of Pius. This type, as well as one depicting a dolphin twined
about an anchor occur as rather scarce motifs on obols from Domitian
to Pius. It is believed that the early Christians made secret analogies
between these types and Christian symbols, and thus used such coins
for identification and recognition. The last picture is that of
a dichalkon reverse of Hadrian, showing the Uraeus upright.