This guide explores the various types of ancient military symbolism depicted on various coins of ancient Greece and Rome
Feel the ancient military come alive on the coins of the Greeks and the Romans explored in this video. It goes from the personification of valor as Virtus to the Roman god of war, Mars the counterpart of the Greek Ares. However fighting battles takes wisdom so coins with Greek Athena and the Roman counterpart Minerva with spear and shield is depicted.
The Roman emperor would go into battle to vanquish his enemies on horseback. He did have the backing of military foot soldiers, or legions behind him carrying the legionary standards and eagles in the Roman military. One symbol the labarum actually was used in the Roman military after Constantine with the name of Jesus Christ as a monogram symbol . Constantine the Great saw this symbol in the sky before a great battle at the Milvian bridge against Maxentius, which he had painted on the shields of his army and wound up winning a great victory.
The Roman military camps were depicted with the symbolism of the camp gates on their coins. These camp gates were also used as a quick way of communication on the frontiers where they would use them as fire signal beacons to muster their military forces to defend their frontiers.
A coin with the Roman soldiers vanquishing their foes in battle driving spears through them as they lay prostrate on the floor, even the Roman emperor not being above such a military endeavor. Some ways to get around the battle field was to use chariots, including the four horse military chariot called the quadriga or the two horse type as the biga. There is also a rarely seen type of chariot which is the triga, a more widely used Greek type of war chariot.
Elephants with their huge size, magnificence and sheer strength were the ancient equivalent of the tank in ancient times. A rare large silver Greek coin of Seleukos I Nikator of the Seleukid kingdom is show here also, with a chariot drawn by elephants. This made his military a formidable force to deal with. Then a silver coin with an elephant of Julius Caesar, the most famous ancient Roman is shown. It also brings back the story of the Romans facing elephant for the first time when Hannibal Barca, the general from Carthage who crossed the Alps with these elephants. The Romans just like many others who had to face them showed a respect for these formidable foes. Even Alexander the Great had to face elephants in his campaign that went into India.
Galleys were used in ancient Greek and Roman times to get around and to move military forces along with supplies to their destinations. Several coins are shown here, one with a full sail and the other one of Mark Antony from the battle of Actium, which had a great naval battle that shaped history to what it is today. This coin of Mark Antony shows what could be described as trireme military row ships which were used in this battle. The other side had the legionary eagle (aquila) between two standards and named the legion the coin was minted for by it’s number.
Weapons were important for any battle. A coin of the kingdom of Bosporus is shown which shown all the important militaristic symbols such as the shield, the spear, the helmet, a sword in a scabbard and even a military axe. The weapons used in the legendary tales of Hercules were the bow and the club. On a coin of Alexander the Great he is even depicted as Hercules. Hercules used the skin of the Nemean lion as a helmet and armor which was impermeable to weapons according to legend. A shield of Macedonia is shown along with the helmet they used. An important mention of the Aegis, which is the severed head of Medusa used on shields and the breast plate of armor to scare or almost turn your enemies to stone. This was used on the armor of the ancient Greeks, such as in a depiction of Alexander the Great and even the Roman emperors including Augustus.
Celebrating their victories, the Romans employed the goddess Victory whose Greek counterpart was Nike. Nike was originally a goddess of athletic Olympic style contests and she, along with her Roman counterpart is shown holding a wreath and a palm branch. The wreath would be placed on the head of the victories general, emperor or athletic contest winner and the palm branch was a symbol of victory. The Romans depicted their vanquished enemies as either bound captives or seated in a mourning position, sad over the great defeat they suffered by the Romans. The weapons, including the armor of the vanquished was used to build a trophy or a tropaion, consisting of the shields, swords, helmets spears and other military objects to be displayed in honor of a victory. The fronts of defeated ships were displayed in the Roman forum as Rostra and used also a speaker’s platform along with being a great show of power to foreign dignitaries visiting Rome. There were also occasions that great architectural works that would be commissioned. A large Sestertius Roman coin of Nero is shown which has the arch. Arches are still standing in Rome to this day, one being by the Colosseum, known as the Arch of Titus which celebrated the victory over Judaea, the looting of the Great temple and the victory procession from there. The loot being used to build the Flavian Amphitheatre, known to this day as the Colosseum.
See the coins depicted in this guide for yourself and so much more!
The goal of this guide is to familiarize those new to the collecting of ancient coins to the wonderful types of coins available, all of which featured here and more being available in my eBay store.
See all the different types accessible in my store by clicking the link, which does a search for the term in all capital letters in my store. The types to be seen are:
- Click here to see all coins of VIRTUS personification of valor, and manliness.
- Click here to see all coins of ARES the Greek god of war.
- Click here to see all coins of MARS the Roman god of war.
- Click here to see all coins of ATHENA the goddess of military wisdom and more.
- Click here to see all coins of MINERVA the Roman counterpart of Athena.
- Click here to see all coins of EMPERORS on HORSES.
- Click here to see all coins with HORSES.
- Click here to see all coins of EAGLES which were used by Romans and Greeks.
- Click here to see all coins of ROMAN LEGIONARY STANDARDS on coins.
- Click here to see all coins of GLORY of ARMY featuring Legionary Soldiers.
- Click here to see all coins with LABARUM the Christian symbol standard.
- Click here to see all coins with CHI-RHO the Jesus Christ monogram, also known as Christogram used on the labarum.
- Click here to see all coins with CAMP GATE the Roman legionary camp with fire signal beacons.
- Click here to see all coins of BATTLE scenes.
- Click here to see all coins with CHARIOTS. Also see QUADRIGA and TRIGA and BIGA.
- Click here to see all coins with ELEPHANTS.
- Click here to see all coins with GALLEYS. Also see SHIPS.
- Click here to see all coins with SPEAR and SHIELD and HELMET and BOW and CLUB and AXE and SWORD and AEGIS and GORGONEION and TRIDENT.
- Click here to see all coins with NIKE the Greek goddess of Victory
- Click here to see all coins with VICTORY the Roman counterpart of Nike.
- Click here to see all coins of VICTORY OVER a Roman enemy.
- Click here to see all coins with TROPAION which is the Greek version of trophy.
- Click here to see all coins with TROPHY.
- Click here to see all coins with ARCH. See also COLUMN.
Ancient Coins of the Military
GORDIAN III 240AD Authent Authentic Genuine Silver Roman Coin VIRTUS i21683
VELIA in LUCANIA 300BC Philistion group Silver Greek Coin Athena Lion i53521
Silver Stater 21mm (6.89 grams) Struck circa 300-280 B.C. Philistion group.
Reference: Williams 506 (O254/R355); HN Italy 1312; SNG ANS 1387; Weber 938
Head of Athena left, wearing crested Attic helmet decorated with a dolphin, Φ on neck guard.
Lion standing right; above, Φ-I flanking ornate trident head right; YEΛHTΩN in exergue.
DOMITIAN 92AD Ancient Silver Roman Coin Athena MINERVA Cult i21934
NERO on HORSE with SOLDIER 67AD Rome Sestertius LARGE Ancient Roman Coin i53830
PROBUS on horse spearing barbarian 278AD Authentic Ancient Roman Coin i53272
Silvered Bronze Antoninianus 23mm (3.25 grams) Serdica mint 278-282 A.D.
Reference: RIC 877g(var.), C 912
IMPCMAVRPROBVSPAVG – Helmeted, radiate, cuirassed bust left,
holding spear over shoulder and shield.
VIRTVSPROBIAVG Exe: KAΓ – Probus riding horse right, spearing barbarian;
shield under horse.
MAXIMINUS II DAIA 312AD Rome Rare Aquila Standards Ancient Roman Coin i52865
CONSTANTINE I the GREAT 335AD Ancient Roman Coin Glory of Army Legions i27304
Bronze AE3 16mm (2.59 grams) Antioch mint: 335-337 A.D.
CONSTANTINVSMAXAVG – Rosette-diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right.
GLORIAEXERCITVS Exe: SMANΓ – Two soldiers standing either side of two standards.Numismatic Note* The reverse legend dedicates this coin to ” the glory of the Army.”
Theodosius I the Great with labarum 379AD Authentic Ancient Roman Coin i52710
CONSTANTIUS II son of Constantine the Great w labarum Ancient Roman Coin i51167
Son of Constantine I the Great
Bronze AE2 20mm (3.98 grams) Cyzicus mint 348-351 A.D.
Reference: RIC 70 (Cyzicus), LRBC 2474
DNCONSTANTIVSPFAVG – Diademed, draped and cuirassed bust left, holding globe.
FELTEMPREPARATIO Exe: */SMKΔ – Constantius II standing left, holding labarum topped with the Chi-Rho and resting hand on shield; two captives to left. Star in left field.
CONSTANTIUS II 324AD Arelate Mint OPEN DOOR CAMP GATE Rare Roman Coin i51101
Bronze AE3 20mm (2.67 grams) Arelate mint: 324-325 A.D.
Reference: RIC 297
FL IVL CONSTANTIVS NOB C, Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust left.
VIRTVS CAESS Exe: QA(crescent)RL, Camp gate with open doors and four turrets; star above.* Numismatic Note: Rare type with the open doors.
CONSTANTIUS II Constantine the Great son Ancient Roman Coin Battle Horse i46699
BATTLE SCENE COIN
Bronze AE2 23mm (4.98 grams) Struck in the mint of Aquileia circa 337-361 A.D.
Reference: RIC VIII Aquileia 95.
DN CONSTAN-TIVS PF AVG, pearl diademed, draped, cuirassed bust right
FEL TEMP RE-PARATIO, soldier standing left, knee raised, spearing fallen horseman who is wearing a Phrygian helmet, falling forwards on the ground on his hands and knees. Star in right field. Mintmark AQT. (The dot at far right is not part of the mintmark).
PROBUS 276AD Authentic Ancient Roman Coin Sol Sun God on horse quadriga i44286
Roman Republic 104BC Roma Victory Chariot Authentic Ancient Silver Coin i49087
SELEUKOS I Nikator Tetradrachm Athena ELEPHANT Silver Greek Coin Seleukid i46301
Seleukos I, Nikator – King: 312-280 B.C.
Silver Tetradrachm 26mm (17.27 grams) Struck circa 312-280 B.C.
Reference: Sear 6831 var.; HGC 9, 18
Laureate head of Zeus right.
Athena, brandishing spear and holding shield, standing in chariot drawn right by four horned elephants; on left, ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ; in exergue, ΣEΛΕYKOY.
JULIUS CAESAR Elephant Serpent 49BC Authentic Ancient Silver Roman Coin i47254
Silver Denarius 19mm (3.66 grams) Struck 49-48 B.C.
Reference: RSC 49j B.9; B.M.C., Gaul, 27; Syd. 1006; Craw. 443/1
Elephant walking right, trampling on serpent, CAESAR in exergue.
Sacrificial implements: Simpulum, sprinkler, axe and priest’s hat.The obverse type may symbolize victory over evil, whereas the reverse refers to Caesar’s office of Pontifex Maximus.
GORDIAN III 238AD Deultum Thrace GALLEY SHIP Ancient Roman Coin BEAUTY i52771
MARK ANTONY Cleopatra Lover 32BCActium Ancient Silver Roman Coin LEG XIX i53492
RHOEMETALKES 136AD Bosporus King Shield Sword Axe Horse Helmet Greek Coin i53539
Rhoemetalkes – King, circa 131-154 A.D.
Bronze ’48 Units’ 22mm (5.48 grams) Struck circa 136 A.D.
Reference: Anohin 495; Sear GIC 5467; MacDonald 456
ΒΑCΙΛЄѠC POIMHTAΛKOY, His diademed and draped bust right; trident before.
Circular shield between battle axe (on left) and sword in scabbard; spear in background; above, horse‘s head and helmet; beneath, denomination mark M H.
Alexander III the Great as Hercules 336BC Ancient Greek Coin Bow Club i44200
Bronze 19mm (6.18 grams)
Struck under Alexander the Great 336-323 B.C.
Reference: Sear 6739 var.
Head of Alexander the Great as Hercules right, wearing the lion-skin headdress.
Hercules’ weapons, bow in bow-case and club, ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ in between.
DEMETRIUS I Poliorcetes 294BC Ancient Greek Coin HELMET SHIELD i27042
AMISOS in PONTUS MITHRADATES VI the GREAT Gorgon Aegis Nike Greek Coin i30066
Bronze 21mm (7.67 grams) Struck under Mithradates VI the Great circa 105-90 B.C. or circa 90-85 B.C.
Reference: HGC 7, 242; Sear 3642; SNG Black Sea 1177-1191; B.M.C. 13. 20,74
Aegis, with Gorgon’s head at center.
Nike advancing right, carrying palm-branch; ΑΜΙ – ΣΟΥ across field; monograms to left and to right.
AUGUSTUS Victory Over Brutus Cassius Assasins of Julius Caesar Roman Coin i53144
TRAJAN victory over DACIA 103AD Ancient Silver Roman Denarius Coin Rome i53511
VICTORY OVER DACIA
Silver Denarius 17mm (3.36 grams) Rome mint: 103-111 A.D.
Reference: RIC 219
IMP TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P COS V P P, laureate head right.
S P Q R OPTIMO PRINCIPI, Dacia seated right in mournful attitude on shield; below, curved sword.Trajan celebrates his victory over Dacia on this coin.
CONSTANTINE I the GREAT RARE Ancient Roman Coin Victory Over SARMATIANS i39763
Victory Over SARMATIANS
Bronze 19mm (3.24 grams) Sirmium mint 324-325 A.D.
Reference: RIC 48 (VII, Sirmium)
CONSTANTINVSAVG – Laureate head right.
SARMATIADEVICTA Exe: SIRM – Victory advancing right, stepping on captive,
holding Trophy and palm.
SEPTIMIUS SEVERUS 194AD Emesa Trophy Quality Ancient Silver Roman Coin i12586
NERO Arch Chariot & Mars 65AD Lugdunum Ancient Roman Coin Architecture i36665
Bronze Sestertius 36mm (25.42 grams) Lugdunum mint: 65 A.D.
Reference: RIC 393; Cohen 306; BMCRE 330; BN 69; WCN 414; F.S. Kleiner, The Arch
of Nero in Rome. A study of the Roman honorary arch before and under Nero,
Archaeologica 52 (Rome, 1985), 51aNERO CLAVD CAESAR AVG GER P M TR P IMP P P, laureate head left, globe at point of bust.
S C across field, Triumphal arch, hung with wreath across front and left side; above, Nero in facing quadriga escorted on right by Victory holding wreath and palm and on left by Pax holding caduceus and cornucopiae; just below the quadriga on extreme left and right, two small figures of soldiers; on left side of arch in niche, figure of Mars standing facing, holding spear and round shield; ornamental reliefs on the faces and plinths of the arch.