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Silver Roman Denarius of Emperor Septimius Severus with a Reverse Theme Depicting the Roman Goddess of Indulgence, “Indulgentia” – 196/7 A.D.
OBVERSE INSCRIPTION: L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP VIII.
OBVERSE DEPICTION: The head of Septimius Severus, right, laureate crown (laurel wreath).
REVERSE INSCRIPTION: INDVLGENTIA AVG.
REVERSE DEPICTION: The Goddess Indulgentia seated in a Curule throne/chair, one arm resting on chair with a scepter or “hasta pura” in the crook of her arm, other arm outstretched in front of her holding a patera.
ATTRIBUTION: City of Rome Mint sometime in 196 or 197A.D.
Diameter: 17 millimeters.
Weight: 2.68 grams.
NOTE: Coin is mounted free of charge into your choice of pendant settings (shown in sterling silver pendant), and includes a sterling silver chain in your choice of 16", 18", or 20" length, (details below or click here). We can reverse coin in mounting if you prefer opposite side showing front.
DETAIL: This is a very handsome and very uncommon silver denarius produced in the city of Rome itself in 196 or 197 A.D. It is in very good condition, only very modest wear from circulation in ancient Rome. It was well struck both front and back on a planchet (blank coin) which was just a little undersized (not at all uncommon), though the coin is of better than average weight for the era. The net result is that on both the obverse side of the coin a few of the Latin characters in the legend are slightly truncated (not missing, merely that a portion of the top of the letters are off the edge of the coin), and on the reverse side of the coin, the Latin characters making up the first half of the legend are severely truncated (in some cases almost entirely chopped off, struck off the edge of the flan.
Naturally inasmuch as these coins were produced by hand, and it is the rule, not the exception, to find them struck off-center, on irregular, undersized planchets (blanks), and consequentially missing portions of the legends and/or themes (depictions). All of these characteristics are interesting though certainly not unique or uncommon features of the ancient Roman coinage of the era, and absolutely not detrimental. However unlike most coins of the era, the strike which formed this particular specimen was well centered (just on a slightly undersized planchet), so that the entirety of the theme was captured, and this is applicable to both the obverse as well as the reverse. You might notice however that both with respect to the obverse and reverse legends, particularly the reverse, a few of the Latin characters (letters) are just a little indistinct and of low profile.
However again, this is quite ordinary and commonplace. As the dies were subjected to the repeated blows part and parcel of the process of producing ancient coinage, little bits of metal (“detritus”) would slowly clog up the finer features of the die, especially the engraved letters, and from time to time they would have to be re-engraved. Despite the fact that the planchet was a bit undersized, it was nonetheless of usual weight, and so is quite thick. The coin did not spread, or “flow” quite as fully as it should have within the die, consequence of either a light strike and or a planchet which was not quite hot enough. Nonetheless despite the slightly undersized planchet and the resulting slight impaired legends, given the well-centered strike, the pleasing portrait well-defined and in high profile, and the very low level of circulatory wear evidenced, this is without a doubt a superb specimen.
The obverse of the coin depicts the head of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, depicted with laureate crown; and although a portion of the legend is missing due to the slightly undersized nature of the coin, it was originally accompanied by the legend “L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP VIII”. “L SEPT SEV” of course refers to the Emperor’s name, “Lucius Septimius Severus”. “PERT” refers to the “title” or name “Pertinax”; in reference to one of the shorter-lived Emperors of the Roman Imperial Period, Publius Helvius Pertinax. Pertinax had enjoyed a long career in public service, first in the military, then as a Senator, and finally the perfect of the city of Rome at the time Commodus (the insane son of Marcus Aurelius of “Gladiator” fame), was murdered, having completely disgraced the purple with his publicly stated belief that he was the reincarnation of Hercules and his public spectacles fighting wild beasts in the Amphitheatre.
Pertinax had a reputation as a disciplinarian, had attracted the attention and respect of Marcus Aurelius, and he seemed the perfect choice as an Emperor to restore order to Rome after the murder of Commodus. Pertinax reluctantly accepted the throne when it was offered to him by the Praetorian Perfect and the other conspirators behind Commodus’s death. However the strict reforms and economic measures he immediately instituted made him quite unpopular with the Praetorian Guard (the Emperor’s “body guard”) – especially his decision to pay them a very small “donative” – the customary gesture a new Emperor made to the Praetorian Guard. Kind of a bribe to ensure good behavior – there simply were not adequate funds in the treasury – and Pertinax was not an exceptionally wealthy man. Feeling offended and demeaned, the Praetorian Guard invaded the palace and murdered Pertinax after a reign of only 86 days.
There was a rapid succession of contenders to the throne, including one wealthy Senator who “purchased” the throne and title of Emperor from the Praetorian Guard; as well as three different generals who were proclaimed Emperor by their legions. One of the three was Septimius Severus, who had been loyal to Pertinax for the latter’s short reign. Ultimately Septimius Severus prevailed over the other contenders to the throne. In a tribute to Pertinax, Septimius Severus took the former Emperor’s name, deified Pertinax, and became Septimius Severus Pertinax. It is believed by historians that Septimius Severus saw himself as the avenger of Pertinax. Septimius Severus eventually dropped the use of the name “Pertinax”, it is believed after having a dream (an “omen”) that he would meet the same fate as Pertinax (murdered at the hands of the Praetorian Guard) if he kept the name of Pertinax.
The suffix “AVG” was an abbreviation for Augustus. The term “Augustus” is Latin for “majestic” (thus the honorific salutation “your majesty”). However the term “Augustus” in the common vernacular of the Roman Empire became synonymous with the Emperor. The first "Augustus" (and first man counted as a Roman Emperor) was Octavius, Julis Caesar’s nephew and heir. Octavian was given the title of Augustus by the Senate in 27 B.C. Over the next forty years, Caesar Augustus literally set the standard by which subsequent Emperors would be recognized, accumulating various offices and powers and making his own name ("Augustus") identifiable with the consolidation of these powers under a single person. Although the name signified nothing in constitutional theory, it was recognized as representing all the powers that Caesar Augustus eventually accumulated.
Caesar Augustus also set the standard by which Roman Emperors were named. The three titles used by the majority of Roman Emperors; “Imperator”, “Caesar”, and “Augustus” were all used personally by Caesar Augustus (he officially styled himself "Imperator Caesar Augustus"). However of the name "Augustus" was unique to the Emperor himself (though the Emperor's mother or wife could bear the name "Augusta"). But others could and did bear the titles "Imperator" and "Caesar". Later usage saw the Emperor adding the additional titles “Pius Felix (“pious and blessed”) and “Invictus” (“unconquered”) in addition to the title “Augustus”). In this usage, by signifying the complete assumption of all Imperial powers, "Augustus" became roughly synonymous with “Emperor” in modern language. As the Roman Empire began splintering, Augustus came to be the title applied to the senior Emperor, while the title “Caesar” came to refer to his “junior” sub-Emperors.
The “IMP VIII” is an abbreviation for “Imperator”. Imperator was originally a title or acclamation awarded to victorious generals in the field during the Republic Period (before Julius Caesar). Throughout the history of Republican Rome, the title was bestowed upon an especially able general who had won an enormous victory. Traditionally it was the troops in the field that proclaimed a man imperator – the first step in the process of the general applying to the senate for a triumph (a ceremony both civil and religious held in Rome itself to publicly honor the general and to display/parade the glories and trophies of Roman victory). Septimius was to receive eleven imperatorial acclamations during the time he was Emperor. This particular acclamation, number eight, refers to the capture of Byzantium toward the end of the civil war.
Byzantium represented the last bastion of the influence of Pescennius Niger, one of the claimants to the throne after the death of Commodus. Niger had actually perished two years earlier when Antioch had fallen, but even after his death Byzantium refused to yield to the victor, Septimius Severus. The city of Byzantium withstood a siege by Severan troops until 196 A.D., possibly on the hope that a third rival to the principate, the governor of Britain Clodius Albinus, nominally allied with Niger, would defeat Severus in the West. However on 19 February 197 A.D., in the Battle of Lugdunum, with an army of 100,000 men, mostly composed of Illyrian, Moesian and Dacian legions, Severus defeated and killed Clodius Albinus, securing his full control over the Empire.
“IMP” could also be the abbreviation for “Imperatrix”, which was the title of the wife an Imperator. After Augustus Octavian (Julius Caesar’s successor) had established the hereditary, one-man rule in Rome that we refer to as the Imperial Roman Empire, the title Imperator was restricted to the emperor and members of his immediate family. If a general who was not part of the imperial family was acclaimed by his troops as Imperator, it was tantamount to a declaration of rebellion or civil war against the ruling emperor. Though the title Augustus is probably the closest Latin equivalent to the English word emperor; it was eventually the term Imperator which became the root of the English word “Imperial”.
The emperor is depicted “laureate”, or wearing a wreath or crown composed of laurel, or “bay leaves”. This wreath of laurel leaves is an attribute of the Graeco-Roman God Apollo, and is a symbol of victory. In Greek Mythology, Apollo fell in love with the legendary mountain nymph Daphene. Daphene, anxious to escape Apollo’s amorous interests, asked the Gods of Olympus to change her into a bay tree. Thereafter Apollo always wore a laurel wreath made from the leaves of her sacred tree to show is never failing love for her. Apollo also declared that wreaths were to be awarded to victors, both in athletic competitions and poetic meets under his care.
Laurel wreaths became the prize awarded in athletic, musical, and poetic competitions. For instance by the 6th century B.C., the winners of the ancient Greek Pythian Games (forerunner of the Olympics and held every four years at Delphi) were awarded a wreath of laurel leaves. Ancient Greek coins from at least as far back as the second century B.C. depict laurel wreaths worn by not only Apollo, but also Athena, Saturn, Jupiter, Victory (Nike), and Salus. Eventually the custom of awarding a wreath of laurel leaves was extended from victors of athletic events to the victors of military endeavors. The symbolism was inherited (or mimicked) by the Romans, to whom the bestowal of a laurel wreath became the sign of a victorious general acclaimed by his troops.
After defeating Pompey, the Roman Senate not only voted Julius Caesar Imperator for life, but also awarded him the right to wear the laurel wreath in perpetuity. From that point on it is said that Julius Caesar always appeared in public laureate, and all of his coinage depicted Julius Caesar wearing the laurel leaf crown. Thus the laurel leaf crown became associated not only with the victorious general, but became a symbol of the office of Caesar and Imperator. There were other types of wreaths in Graeco-Roman Mythology as well. Dionysus was oftentimes depicted either with a wreath of ivy or with a wreath composed of grape leaves. Zeus was oftentimes depicted with a wreath of oak leaves, and wreathes of roses became associated with Aphrodite. As well, funeral wreaths became a Roman custom, and were often carved into the decorative elements of a sarcophagus.
Lucius Septimius Severus was born in 146 AD at Leptis Magna in Africa (near Carthage) to noble parents. It is believed that he was made a Senator by Emperor Marcus Aurelius in 172 A.D. He was reputed to be a soldier of outstanding ability, and was promoted through a series of increasingly important commands. One of those commands under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius was of the legion based at Emesa, Syria. Emesa was an important religious center/city sited on the trade route between Palmyra and Antioch. And it was there in 187 A.D. that Septimius Severus was to meet Julia Domna, the daughter of the High Priest of the Sun God Elagabal. In 187 A.D. Julia Domna was married Lucius Septimius Severus as his second wife (his first had died). Julia Domna and her sister Mulia Maesa were the beginning of four generations of “Syrian Princesses” which were the power behind the Roman Throne. Of Julia Maesa’s two daughters, Julia Soaemias was the mother of future Emperor Elagablus; Julia Mamae was the mother of future Emperor Alexander Severus.
After the death of Marcus Aurelius, as semi-fictionalized by the movie “Gladiator”, his despotic son Commodus became Emperor of Rome. At the death of Commodus in 192 A.D., Septimius was governor of Upper Pannonia (an appointment he had received from Commodus in 190 A.D.). He swore allegiance to the new emperor, Pertinax. However Pertinax was murdered the following year, and the Praetorian Guards publicly announced that they would elect as the new emperor whomsoever would pay them the highest price. Didius Julianus, a wealthy Senator, offered 25,000 sestertii (for each of the Praetorian Guards), and was proclaimed emperor. Eventually there were four "emperors" laying claim to the throne, Septimius Severus, Clodius Albinus, Pescennius Niger, and Didius Julianus. Septimius Severus advanced on Rome and beheaded Didius Julianus after Didius had been emperor for a mere 66 days. The following year Septimius's troops defeated Niger's troops, and Septimius executed Niger. And in 197 AD, after his army was defeated in battle by Septimius's army, Albinus committed suicide.
Septimius Severus’s relationship with the Roman Senate was never good. He was unpopular with them from the beginning, having seized power with the help of the military. Severus ordered the execution of dozens of senators on charges of corruption and conspiracy against him, replacing them with his own favorites. He also disbanded the Praetorian Guard and replaced it with one of his own, made up of 50,000 loyal soldiers camped in and around Rome. Although his actions turned Rome into a military dictatorship, he was popular with the citizens of Rome, having stamped out the moral degeneration of the reign of Commodus and the rampant corruption. When he returned from his victory over the Parthians, he erected a triumphal arch that still stands and bears his name to this day.
Septimius Severus spent much of his reign conducting military campaigns in different parts of the empire, as well as visiting the provinces. In 208 AD he campaigned in Britain against barbarians of the north, and made repairs to Hadrian's Wall. He died in York on February 4, 211 AD. Septimius was succeeded by his two sons, Caracalla and Geta. Caracalla, the eldest, arranged to have his wife murdered that same year; and then orchestrated the murder of his younger brother the following year. Caracalla was himself was murdered five years later in 217 AD, at which time Septimius's surviving wife, and mother of Geta and Caracalla, Empress Julia Domna, committed suicide by starving herself to the death.
The reverse of this coin depicts the Roman Goddess of Indulgence and Lenience, “Indulgentia”. She is depicted seated in a curule chair, with a scepter or “hasta pura” in one hand (by the chair), and in the other hand, outstretched, a patera. Indulgentia was the deified personification of clemency, lenience, grace, favor; the goddess if indulgence and mercy. The legend accompanying the thematic depiction, “INDVLGENTIA AVG” (“AVG” referring to the “Augustus, as the did same abbreviation on the obverse of the coin), is a propagandistic message attempting to attribute these qualities, the qualities of the Goddess Indulgentia, to Emperor Septimius Severus; i.e. that he was indulgent, lenient, and merciful with his charges, the citizens of Rome.
Portraits of Indulgentia on Roman coinage are fairly rare, and not a lot is known about the worship of Indulgentia in ancient Rome. However when she was depicted in Roman coinage, she was as in this instance, most often shown holding a scepter or “hasta pura” in one hand, and a patera in the other. A “patera” was a broad, flat, round dish used for drinking (wine more often than not) and ceremonially for offering libations. In place of the patera, occasionally she might be depicted holding a flower, or holding a wand. Though oftentimes she was depicted walking, she was also depicted seated upon a Curule throne.
In the Roman Republic, and later the Empire, the curule chair (or throne) was the chair upon which senior magistrates or promagistrates were entitled to sit, including dictators, masters of the horse, consuls, praetors, priests of Jupiter, and the curule aediles. In the latter Republic, Caesar the Dictator was entitled to sit upon a curule chair made of gold. The curule chair was traditionally made of ivory; with curved legs forming a wide X; it had no back, and low arms. The chair could be folded, and thus made easily transportable for magisterial and promagesterial commanders in the field. According to the (ancient) Roman Historian Livy the curule chair originated with the Etruscans, though there is evidence that before then it might have originated with Near East potentates.
Indulgentia was almost always depicted holding either a scepter or “hasta pura”. A “hasta pura”, a ceremonial lance (spear, pike) without an iron head, oftentimes with a knob at the end, the forerunner of the standard pilum issued to Roman soldiers. The hasta was derived by the Roman from the Etrurians, who called it a “corim”. By the Sabines it was called a “quiris”, their king called “coritos” as the spear was to them an attribute of royalty. The Hasta was the symbol not only of power, fortitude and valor, but also of majesty and even divinity. It is one of the insignia of the Gods, and of the Emperors and Augustae after their apotheosis, implying that they had become objects of worship. It is generally found in the hands of female divinities, as the war-spear is in those of warriors and heroes.
There are a few issues of Roman coinage, particularly those of Septimius Severus, which also depicted Indulgentia holding a cornucopiae. Indulgentia was a popular theme in some of the commemorative issues struck after the death of Septimius Severus. A cornucopiae of course is a “horn of plenty”, a symbol of abundance generally a wicker container filled with fruits or vegetables. Used since at least the fifth century B.C., it seems to have originated in Greek mythology where Amalthea raised Zeus on the milk of a goat. In return Zeus gave her the goat's horn. It had the power to give to the person in possession of it whatever he or she wished for. This gave rise to the legend of the cornucopia. The original depictions were of the goat's horn filled with fruits and flowers. Greek and Roman deities would be depicted with the horn of plenty, which was especially associated with the Roman Goddess Fortuna (Greek Tyche).
Your purchase includes, upon request, mounting of this coin in either pendant style “a” or “d” as shown here. Pendant style “a” is a clear, airtight acrylic capsule designed to afford your ancient coin maximum protection from both impact damage and degradation. It is the most “politically correct” mounting. Style “d” is a sterling silver pendant. Either pendant styles include a sterling silver chain (16", 18", or 20"). Upon request, there are also an almost infinite variety of other pendants which might well suit both you and your ancient coin pendant, and include both sterling silver and solid 14kt gold mountings, including those shown here. As well, upon request, we can also make available a huge variety of chains in lengths from 16 to 30 inches, in metals including sterling silver, 14kt gold fill, and solid 14kt gold.
HISTORY OF COINAGE: Coins came into being during the seventh century B.C. in Lydia and Ionia, part of the Greek world, and were made from a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. Each coin blank was heated and struck with a hammer between two engraved dies. Unlike modern coins, they were not uniformly round. Each coin was wonderfully unique. Coinage quickly spread to the island and city states of Western Greece. Alexander the Great (336-323 B.C.) then spread the concept of coinage throughout the lands he conquered. Ancient coins are archaeological treasures from the past. They were buried for safekeeping because of their value and have been slowly uncovered throughout modern history. Oftentimes soldiers the night before battle would bury their coins and jewelry, hoping and believing that they would live long enough to recover them, and to return to their family. Killed in battle, these little treasure hoards remain until today scattered throughout Western and Eastern Europe, even into the Levant and Persia.
As well, everyone from merchants to housewives found the safest place to keep their savings was buried in a pot, or in some other secretive location. If they met an unexpected end, the whereabouts of the merchants trade goods or the household’s sugar jar money might never be known. Recently a commercial excavation for a new building foundation in London unearthed a Roman mosaic floor. When archaeologists removed the floor, they found 7,000 silver denarii secreted beneath the floor. Even the Roman mints buried their produce. There were over 300 mints in the Roman Empire striking coinage. Hoards of as many as 40,000 coins have been found in a single location near these ancient sites. Ancient coins reflect the artistic, political, religious, and economic themes of their times. The acquisition of ancient coins is a unique opportunity to collect art which has been appreciated throughout the centuries.
Coins of the Roman Empire most frequently depicted the Emperor on the front of the coins, and were issued in gold, silver, and bronze. The imperial family was also frequently depicted on the coinage, and, in some cases, coins depicted the progression of an emperor from boyhood through maturity. The reverse side of often served as an important means of political propaganda, frequently extolling the virtues of the emperor or commemorating his victories. Many public works and architectural achievements such as the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus were also depicted. Important political events such as alliances between cities were recorded on coinage. Many usurpers to the throne, otherwise unrecorded in history, are known only through their coins. Interestingly, a visually stunning portrayal of the decline of the Roman Empire is reflected in her coinage. The early Roman bronze coins were the size of a half-dollar. Within 100-150 years those had shrunk to the size of a nickel. And within another 100-150 years, to perhaps half the size of a dime.
ROMAN HISTORY: One of the greatest civilizations of recorded history was the ancient Roman Empire. In exchange for a very modest amount of contemporary currency, you can possess a small part of that great civilization in the form of a 2,000 year old ancient Roman artifact. The Roman civilization, in relative terms the greatest military power in the history of the world, was founded in the 8th century (B.C.). In the 4th Century (B.C.) the Romans were the dominant power on the Italian Peninsula, having defeated the Etruscans and Celts. In the 3rd Century (B.C.) the Romans conquered Sicily, and in the following century defeated Carthage, and controlled the Greece. Throughout the remainder of the 2nd Century (B.C.) the Roman Empire continued its gradual conquest of the Hellenistic (Greek Colonial) World by conquering Syria and Macedonia; and finally came to control Egypt in the 1st Century (B.C.)
The pinnacle of Roman power was achieved in the 1st Century (A.D.) as Rome conquered much of Britain and Western Europe. At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from Britain in the West, throughout most of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, and into Asia Minor. For a brief time, the era of “Pax Romana”, a time of peace and consolidation reigned. Civilian emperors were the rule, and the culture flourished with a great deal of liberty enjoyed by the average Roman Citizen. However within 200 years the Roman Empire was in a state of steady decay, attacked by Germans, Goths, and Persians. The decline was temporarily halted by third century Emperor Diocletian. In the 4th Century (A.D.) the Roman Empire was split between East and West. The Great Emperor Constantine again managed to temporarily arrest the decay of the Empire, but within a hundred years after his death the Persians captured Mesopotamia, Vandals infiltrated Gaul and Spain, and the Goths even sacked Rome itself. Most historians date the end of the Western Roman Empire to 476 (A.D.) when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed. However the Eastern Roman Empire (The Byzantine Empire) survived until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D.
In the ancient world valuables such as coins and jewelry were commonly buried for safekeeping, and inevitably the owners would succumb to one of the many perils of the ancient world. Oftentimes the survivors of these individuals did not know where the valuables had been buried, and today, thousands of years later caches of coins and rings are still commonly uncovered throughout Europe and Asia Minor. Throughout history these treasures have been inadvertently discovered by farmers in their fields, uncovered by erosion, and the target of unsystematic searches by treasure seekers. With the introduction of metal detectors and other modern technologies to Eastern Europe in the past three or four decades, an amazing number of new finds are seeing the light of day thousands of years after they were originally hidden by their past owners. And with the liberalization of post-Soviet Eastern Europe, new markets have opened eager to share in these ancient treasures.
HISTORY OF SILVER: After gold, silver is the metal most widely used in jewelry and the most malleable. The oldest silver artifacts found by archaeologists date from ancient Sumeria about 4,000 B.C. At many points in the ancient world, it was actually more costly than gold, particularly in ancient Egypt. Silver is found in native form (i.e., in nuggets), as an alloy with gold (electrum), and in ores containing sulfur, arsenic, antimony or chlorine. Much of the silver originally found in the ancient world was actually a natural alloy of gold and silver (in nugget form) known as “electrum”. The first large-scale silver mines were in Anatolia (ancient Turkey) and Armenia, where as early as 4,000 B.C. silver was extracted from lead ores by means of a complicated process known as “smelting”. Even then the process was not perfect, as ancient silver does contain trace elements, typically lead, gold, bismuth and other metals, and as much as a third of the silver was left behind in the slag. However measuring the concentrations of the “impurities” in ancient silver can help the forensic jewelry historian in determining the authenticity of classical items.
From Turkey and Armenia silver refining technology spread to the rest of Asia Minor and Europe. By about 2,500 B.C. the Babylonians were one of the major refiners of silver. Silver “treasures” recovered by archaeologists from the second and third millenniums demonstrate the high value the ancient Mediterranean and Near East placed upon silver. Some of the richest burials in history uncovered by archaeologists have been from this time frame, that of Queen Puabi of Ur, Sumeria (26th century B.C.); Tuankhamun (14th century B.C.), and the rich Trojan (25th century B.C.) and Mycenaean (18th century B.C.) treasures uncovered by Heinrich Schliemann.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the skin of their gods was composed of gold, and their bones were thought to be of silver. When silver was introduced into Egypt, it probably was more valuable than gold (silver was rarer and more valuable than gold in many Mesoamerican cultures as well). In surviving inventories of valuables, items of silver were listed above those of gold during the Old Kingdom. Jewelry made of silver was almost always thinner than gold pieces, as indicated by the bracelets of the 4th Dynasty (about 2,500 B.C.) Queen Hetephere I, in marked contrast to the extravagance of her heavy gold jewelry. A silver treasure excavated by archaeologists and attributable to the reign of Amenemhat II who ruled during the 12th Dynasty (about 1900 B.C.), contained fine silver items which were actually produced in Crete, by the ancient Minoans. When the price of silver finally did fall due to more readily available supplies, for at least another thousand years (through at least the 19th dynasty, about 1,200 B.C.) the price of silver seems to have been fixed at half that of gold. Several royal mummies attributable to about 1,000 B.C. were even entombed in solid silver coffins.
Around 1,000 B.C. Greek Athenians began producing silver from the Laurium mines, and would supply much of the ancient Mediterranean world with its silver for almost 1,000 years. This ancient source was eventually supplemented around 800 B.C. (and then eventually supplanted) by the massive silver mines found in Spain by the Phoenicians and their colony (and ultimate successors) the Carthaginians (operated in part by Hannibal’s family). With the defeat of Carthage by Rome, the Romans gained control of these vast deposits, and mined massive amounts of silver from Spain, stripping entire forests regions for timber to fuel smelting operations. In fact, it was not until the Middle Ages that Spain’s silver mines (and her forests) were finally exhausted.
Although known during the Copper Age, silver made only rare appearances in jewelry before the classical age. Despite its infrequent use as jewelry however, silver was widely used as coinage due to its softness, brilliant color, and resistance to oxidation. Silver alloyed with gold in the form of “electrum” was coined to produce money around 700 B.C. by the Lydians of present-day Turkey. Having access to silver deposits and being able to mine them played a big role in the classical world. Actual silver coins were first produced in Lydia about 610 B.C., and subsequently in Athens in about 580 B.C. Many historians have argued that it was the possession and exploitation of the Laurium mines by the Athenians that allowed them to become the most powerful city state in Greece. The Athenians were well aware of the significance of the mining operations to the prosperity of their city, as every citizen had shares in the mines. Enough silver was mined and refined at Laurium to finance the expansion of Athens as a trading and naval power. One estimate is that Laurium produced 160 million ounces of silver, worth six billion dollars today (when silver is by comparison relatively cheap and abundant). As the production of silver from the Laurium mines ultimately diminished, Greek silver production shifted to mines in Macedonia.
Silver coinage played a significant role in the ancient world. Macedonia’s coinage during the reign of Philip II (359-336 B.C.) circulated widely throughout the Hellenic world. His famous son, Alexander the Great (336-323 B.C.), spread the concept of coinage throughout the lands he conquered. For both Philip II and Alexander silver coins became an essential way of paying their armies and meeting other military expenses. They also used coins to make a realistic portrait of the ruler of the country. The Romans also used silver coins to pay their legions. These coins were used for most daily transactions by administrators and traders throughout the empire. Roman silver coins also served as an important means of political propaganda, extolling the virtues of Rome and her emperors, and continued in the Greek tradition of realistic portraiture. As well, many public works and architectural achievements were also depicted (among them the Coliseum, the Circus Maximus). In addition many important political events were recorded on the coinage. You can Romaan coins which depicted the assassination of Julius Caesar, alliances between cities, between emperors, between armies, etc. And many contenders for the throne of Rome are known only through their coinage.
Silver was also widely used as ornamental work and in other metal wares. In ancient cultures, especially in Rome, silver was highly prized for the making of plate ware, household utensils, and ornamental work. The stability of Rome’s economy and currency depended primarily on the output of the silver mines in Spain which they had wrested from the Carthaginians. In fact many historians would say that it was the control of the wealth of these silver mines which enabled Rome to conquer most of the Mediterranean world. When in 55 B.C. the Romans invaded Britain they were quick to discover and exploit the lead-silver deposits there as well. Only six years later they had established many mines and Britain became another major source of silver for the Roman Empire. It is estimated that by the second century A.D., 10,000 tons of Roman silver coins were in circulation within the empire. That’s about 3½ billion silver coins (at the height of the empire, there were over 400 mints throughout the empire producing coinage). That’s ten times the total amount of silver available to Medieval Europe and the Islamic world combined as of about 800 A.D.
Silver later lost its position of dominance to gold, particularly in the chaos following the fall of Rome. Large-scale mining in Spain petered out, and when large-scale silver mining finally resumed four centuries after the fall of Rome, most of the mining activity was in Central Europe. By the time of the European High Middle Ages, silver once again became the principal material used for metal artwork. Huge quantities of silver from the New World also encouraged eager buyers in Europe, and enabled the Spanish to become major players in the late Medieval and Renaissance periods. Unlike the ores in Europe which required laborious extraction and refining methods to result in pure silver, solid silver was frequently found as placer deposits in stream beds in Spain’s “New World” colonies, reportedly in some instances solid slabs weighing as much as 2,500 pounds. Prior to the discovery of massive silver deposits in the New World, silver had been valued during the Middle Ages at about 10%-15% of the value of gold. In 15th century the price of silver is estimated to have been around $1200 per ounce, based on 2010 dollars. The discovery of massive silver deposits in the New World during the succeeding centuries has caused the price to diminish greatly, falling to only 1-2% of the value of gold.
The art of silver work flourished in the Renaissance, finding expression in virtually every imaginable form. Silver was often plated with gold and other decorative materials. Although silver sheets had been used to overlay wood and other metals since ancient Greece, an 18th-century technique of fusing thin silver sheets to copper brought silver goods called Sheffield plate within the reach of most people. At the same time the use of silver in jewelry making had also started gaining popularity in the 17th century. It was often as support in settings for diamonds and other transparent precious stones, in order to encourage the reflection of light. Silver continued to gain in popularity throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and by the 20th century competed with gold as the principal metal used in the manufacture of jewelry. Silver has the highest thermal and electrical conductivity of any metal, and one of the highest optical reflectivity values. It has a brilliant metallic luster, is very ductile and malleable, only slightly harder than gold, and is easily worked and polished. When used in jewelry, silver is commonly alloyed to include 7.5% copper, known as “Sterling Silver”, to increase the hardness and reduce the melting temperature. Silver jewelry may be plated with 99.9% pure ‘Fine Silver’ to increase the shine when polished. It may also be plated with rhodium to prevent tarnish. Virtually all gold, with the exception of 24 carat gold, includes silver. Most gold alloys are primarily composed of only gold and silver.
Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness, possessed of valuable metaphysical properties, and to provide protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B. C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. Precious minerals were likewise considered to have medicinal and “magical” properties in the ancient world. In its pure form silver is non toxic, and when mixed with other elements is used in a wide variety of medicines. Silver ions and silver compounds show a toxic effect on some bacteria, viruses, algae and fungi. Silver was widely used before the advent of antibiotics to prevent and treat infections, silver nitrate being the prevalent form. Silver Iodide was used in babies' eyes upon birth to prevent blinding as the result of bacterial contamination. Silver is still widely used in topical gels and impregnated into bandages because of its wide-spectrum antimicrobial activity.
The recorded use of silver to prevent infection dates to ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates, the ancient (5th century B.C.) Greek "father of medicine" wrote that silver had beneficial healing and anti-disease properties. The ancient Phoenicians stored water, wine, and vinegar in silver bottles to prevent spoiling. These uses were “rediscovered” in the Middle Ages, when silver was used for several purposes; such as to disinfect water and food during storage, and also for the treatment of burns and wounds as a wound dressing. The ingestion of colloidal silver was also believed to help restore the body's “electromagnetic balance” to a state of equilibrium, and it was believed to detoxify the liver and spleen. In the 19th century sailors on long ocean voyages would put silver coins in barrels of water and wine to keep the liquid potable. Silver (and gold) foil is also used through the world as a food decoration. Traditional Indian dishes sometimes include the use of decorative silver foil, and in various cultures silver dragée (silver coated sugar balls) are used to decorate cakes, cookies, and other dessert items.
SHIPPING & RETURNS/REFUNDS: Your purchase will ordinarily be shipped within 48 hours of payment. We package as well as anyone in the business, with lots of protective padding and containers. All of our shipments are fully insured against loss, and our shipping rates include the cost of this coverage (through stamps.com, Shipsaver.com, the USPS, UPS, or Fed-Ex). International tracking is provided free by the USPS for certain countries, other countries are at additional cost. ADDITIONAL PURCHASES do receive a VERY LARGE discount, typically about $5 per item so as to reward you for the economies of combined shipping/insurance costs. We do offer U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, Registered Mail, and Express Mail for both international and domestic shipments, as well United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (Fed-Ex). Please ask for a rate quotation. We will accept whatever payment method you are most comfortable with.
If upon receipt of the item you are disappointed for any reason whatever, I offer a no questions asked 30-day return policy. Send it back, I will give you a complete refund of the purchase price; 1) less our original shipping/insurance costs, 2) less non-refundable PayPal/eBay payment processing fees. Please note that PayPal does NOT refund fees. Even if you “accidentally” purchase something and then cancel the purchase before it is shipped, PayPal will not refund their fees. So all refunds for any reason, without exception, do not include PayPal/eBay payment processing fees (typically between 3% and 5%) and shipping/insurance costs (if any). If you’re unhappy with PayPal and eBay’s “no fee refund” policy, and we are EXTREMELY unhappy, please voice your displeasure by contacting PayPal and/or eBay. We have no ability to influence, modify or waive PayPal or eBay policies.
ABOUT US: Most of the items I offer come from the collection of a family friend who was active in the field of Archaeology for over forty years. However many of the items also come from purchases I make in Eastern Europe, India, and from the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean/Near East) from various institutions and dealers. Though I have always had an interest in archaeology, my own academic background was in sociology and cultural anthropology. After my retirement however, I found myself drawn to archaeology as well. Aside from my own personal collection, I have made extensive and frequent additions of my own via purchases on Ebay (of course), as well as many purchases from both dealers and institutions throughout the world – but especially in the Near East and in Eastern Europe. I spend over half of my year out of the United States, and have spent much of my life either in India or Eastern Europe. In fact much of what we generate on Yahoo, Amazon and Ebay goes to support The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as some other worthy institutions in Europe connected with Anthropology and Archaeology.
I acquire some small but interesting collections overseas from time-to-time, and have as well some duplicate items within my own collection which I occasionally decide to part with. Though I have a collection of ancient coins numbering in the tens of thousands, my primary interest is in ancient jewelry. My wife also is an active participant in the “business” of antique and ancient jewelry, and is from Russia. I would be happy to provide you with a certificate/guarantee of authenticity for any item you purchase from me. There is a $2 fee for mailing under separate cover. Whenever I am overseas I have made arrangements for purchases to be shipped out via domestic mail. If I am in the field, you may have to wait for a week or two for a COA to arrive via international air mail. But you can be sure your purchase will arrive properly packaged and promptly – even if I am absent. And when I am in a remote field location with merely a notebook computer, at times I am not able to access my email for a day or two, so be patient, I will always respond to every email. Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE."
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