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The Great Sphinx

It may seem like a strange choice to replace an EF Domitian aureus in my Twelve Caesars set with a bronze provincial coin of his but I simply couldn't pass this up. I've always been intrigued by Egypt, especially the Great Sphinx, and this was the first coin I've seen which depicts the monumental sculpture rather than a stylized "conventional" sphinx. It was surprisingly inexpensive considering its rarity and has caused me to start looking closer at provincial coins in general.

Post your Sphinxes!

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The Great Sphinx of Egypt lies near the Great Pyramid in the Giza Plateau, about six miles west of Cairo. It is a massive limestone statue, depicting the mythical Sphinx, a creature with a lion’s body and a human head. It is generally believed that the face of the Great Sphinx is that of Pharaoh Khafra who ruled during the Old Kingdom from 2558-2532BC.

The Sphinx is the oldest and largest monolith statue in the world, standing 241 feet long, 63 feet wide, and over six storeys tall. Unlike the pyramids, it was not a tomb. It was carved whole from solid rock and reinforced with additional stone. The Egyptian engineers quarried the area, leaving behind a broad plateau, into which they carved the Sphinx.

Its original name is lost to history - the common name of "Sphinx" was given to it by the ancient Greeks, some two thousand years after it was sculpted. It was continually damaged and restored, and because of the endlessly shifting sands, it has been buried and freed seven times in its five thousand year existence.

The Romans admired the Sphinx, and the ancient author Pliny the Elder wrote about its majesty, saying that the Egyptians treated it as a representation of a god. Nero encouraged Sphinx worship and Antoninus Pius reinforced a stone retaining wall to try to keep out the sand. Lucius Verus, Marcus Aurelius, and Septimius Severus each made further improvements to this wall to ensure that the Sphinx remained visible.

Despite this admiration, the Great Sphinx itself rarely appears on coinage. Most depicted sphinxes are shown seated and winged, a departure from the Egyptian Sphinx. This coin, however, clearly shows the famous monumental structure, with the sphinx posing in the same reclined stance and with the facial attributes believed to be on the original statue, which have since been damaged.

It was minted in Alexandria, Egypt at a provincial Roman mint under the emperor Domitian. Alexandria was named for Alexander the Great and was the capital city of Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt. It was the base of operations for Mark Antony and Cleopatra until they were defeated by Octavian at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. After this, Augustus made it a simple province and quickly began minting coinage, primarily of tetradrachms.

Domitian was the first emperor to introduce a full range of five bronze denominations at Alexandria, each corresponding with a denomination of Roman coinage. This reflected the care with which Domitian treated the monetary policy of Rome and helped simplify commerce.

This coin is an obol, valued at the equivalent of one-sixth of one denarius. The date on this coin, “IA” refers to “Year 11”, 91-92 AD, in the late portion of Domitian’s rule which ended four years later in 96 AD.

Although this coin is only a “Good VF”, it is one of the finest known. The type is quite rare and very infrequently encountered, with only a single similar coin coming to the market in the last decade (a coin which showed Domitian’s head facing left).

EGYPT, Alexandria. Domitian. 81-96 AD. Æ Obol (3.68 gm, 12h). Dated RY 11 (91/2 AD). Laureate head right / Egyptian sphinx reclining right; date above. RPC II 2646; Köln 396; Dattari 571; Milne 510; Emmett 327. Good VF, dark brown surfaces, very rare and among the finest known.
Learn about our world's shared history told through the first millennium of coinage: Colosseo Collection

Comments

  • love it!

    Augustus had a sphinx for his signet ring

    and the fact that its a bronze obol reminds me of the line by Marc Antony in the HBO: Rome series where Octavian is trying to get him to give him his inheritance from Caesar and he says something like "I wont give you one bronze obol of it!"
    =Recipient of the coveted "You Suck" award 4/28/2014=
  • TIF2TIF2 Posts: 233
    It is a wondrous coin and I am definitely jealous.

    After a lifetime of picturing Giza when thinking of sphinxes, the usual style of ancient coin sphinx just doesn't look right.

    Want want want!
  • mdwoodsmdwoods Posts: 5,522 ✭✭✭
    Another great coin and history lesson. After reading this thread earlier I went off and spent a couple hours looking at maps and reading about he Romans. This forum has been one of the nice things that has happened to me. Thanks.
    National Register Of Big Trees

    We'll use our hands and hearts and if we must we'll use our heads.


  • << <i>Another great coin and history lesson. After reading this thread earlier I went off and spent a couple hours looking at maps and reading about he Romans. This forum has been one of the nice things that has happened to me. Thanks. >>



    check this out:

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-history-of-rome/id261654474?mt=2
    =Recipient of the coveted "You Suck" award 4/28/2014=
  • mdwoodsmdwoods Posts: 5,522 ✭✭✭
    Oh my. Lots of info there. Thanks for that link.
    National Register Of Big Trees

    We'll use our hands and hearts and if we must we'll use our heads.
  • WillieBoyd2WillieBoyd2 Posts: 4,313 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Here's my traditional Sphinx coin:

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    Antoninus Pius Provincial Egypt Bronze Drachm - Sphinx
    Obverse: Laureate head left, "AYT K T AIL ADP ANTWNINOC CEB EYC"
    Reverse: Sphinx seated right, wings raised, left forepaw on wheel, "L IZ" (year 17)
    Catalog: Milne 2249
    Diameter: 33mm (about the size of an Egyptian magic coin)
    Weight: 19.6gm
    Struck Alexandria, Egypt AD 153-154

    I visited Egypt in 1987 and got to see the real thing myself

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    https://www.brianrxm.com
    The Mysterious Egyptian Magic Coin
    Coins in Movies and Coins on Television
    The 1949 San Francisco Mexico Peso Restrikes


  • mdwoodsmdwoods Posts: 5,522 ✭✭✭
    Cool coin. How close could you get to the Sphinx when you were there?
    National Register Of Big Trees

    We'll use our hands and hearts and if we must we'll use our heads.
  • AndresAndres Posts: 3,484 ✭✭✭
    When I was in Egypt in Mai & June 1988, you could touch the Sfinx, and climb in and out of the great pyramid of Cheops,
    the 5000 year old Bark of Cheops right behind his pyramid was imho the highlight on the Giza platform,
    looks like it still would float on the river Nile today.

    image

    I Like the sfinx on the coin, much better then the real one, which is heavily restored on some parts, like the front paws ,
    and other parts like the body are eaten away by rain and sandstorms.
    collector of Greek banknotes - most beautifull world banknotes - Greek & Roman ancient coins.
  • SmEagle1795SmEagle1795 Posts: 2,037 ✭✭✭✭✭


    << <i>
    check this out:

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-history-of-rome/id261654474?mt=2 >>



    Wow! It feels wrong that this podcast is free... what a tremendous amount of information!
    Learn about our world's shared history told through the first millennium of coinage: Colosseo Collection
  • SmEagle1795SmEagle1795 Posts: 2,037 ✭✭✭✭✭


    << <i>
    I visited Egypt in 1987 and got to see the real thing myself
    >>



    I would love to go as well, but unfortunately the political climate is too risky. A friend of mine went recently and said she saw rockets being launched on the horizon... very surreal. Apparently, they treat tourists very well as they know tourism is a critical part of their livelihood, but I still wouldn't want to take the risk.
    Learn about our world's shared history told through the first millennium of coinage: Colosseo Collection
  • Steve27Steve27 Posts: 13,181 ✭✭✭
    "The Great Sphinx" Yes, I think that's a good name for this coin!
    "It's far easier to fight for principles, than to live up to them." Adlai Stevenson
  • johnny9434johnny9434 Posts: 23,307 ✭✭✭✭✭
    a nice old coin. i like
  • AethelredAethelred Posts: 9,274 ✭✭✭
    Great coin, as I have said in the past I consider Domitian amongst the most interesting Roman Emperors and I love the reverse type.
    If you are in the Western North Carolina area, please consider visiting our coin shop:

    WNC Coins, LLC
    1987-C Hendersonville Road
    Asheville, NC 28803


    wnccoins.com
  • LochNESSLochNESS Posts: 4,830 ✭✭✭
    Never ceases to amaze me what we have accomplished with Limestone. I believe it is the most-used stone in the history of mankind. Even to this day, they are still burning limestone down in central America. It was used to build the Mayan temples there. Now we have two if not countless more civilizations which were totally separated by geography and time, which used the same stone to make their temples/pyramids. Fascinating.
    ANA LM • WBCC 429

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  • nicholasz219nicholasz219 Posts: 1,386 ✭✭✭
    Ah, so jealous.
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