Roman emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117 to 138) renowned for his wall, also produced extraordinary coinage. His provincial issues are intriguing. Chief among the coins that Hadrian struck in the provinces were silver cistophori — large, silver coins he produced in two distinct phases.
Though modern scholars have learned a great deal about ancient coinage, there are still more mysteries than there are confirmed facts. When one digs deep enough, it becomes apparent that many of the “facts” are simply educated guesses that are prone to future adjustment.
Byzantine silver coins, generally, are significantly rarer than the gold, electrum, billon or copper coins of that empire. Even so, a great many silver coins were issued throughout the nearly thousand years of the Byzantine Empire. Silver coins assumed many different forms in the Byzantine world depending upon when and where they were minted.
The city of Taras, known to the Romans as Tarentum, was founded by Greek colonists from Sparta along a large, natural harbor on the instep of the “heel” of Italy. From the late sixth through the late third centuries B.C., Taras produced one of the most significant and interesting coinages of south Italy.
The Greek hero Heracles — known to the Romans as Hercules — looms large in ancient mythology. As a son of the supreme Greek god Zeus, he was destined for greatness, but faced many trials in his adventurous life. He is a frequent subject in Greek art and makes innumerable appearances on Greek coins.
The Julio-Claudian emperors struck large quantities of copper, bronze and brass coins, which circulated throughout the empire and even reached beyond Rome’s borders. Shortages, however, also brought out imitations.
The three mightiest gods of the Romans were Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. Together they comprised what is known as the “Capitoline Triad.” All three were honored in the most sacred building in the Roman world — the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, a large structure high upon the Capitoline Hill in Rome.
Among the most popular types of ancient coins are shekels of Tyre, the main silver coinage of a powerful maritime city in ancient Phoenicia. Though desired for many reasons, shekels of Tyre are especially famous as the most likely candidate for the “30 pieces of silver” paid to Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus Christ.
Among the most familiar symbols of ancient Rome is the she-wolf suckling the infants Romulus and Remus. It harkens back to the very origins of Rome — at least in legend. The twin-founders overcome a tumultuous start to their lives, having been exposed to the wilderness as infants to be cared for only by a she-wolf.
When Emperor Diocletian (A.D. 284 to 305) came to power, the Roman Empire was on the verge of recovering from an especially devastating period in the 260s. However, he soon determined that the empire was too vast and too troubled for just one man to rule effectively, and in the summer of 285 he shared his burdens with his trusted friend, Maximian.