Medusa
Coin Catalog

 

 

Ancient coins give visual and tactile substance to the concept of Medusa. I've delineated 60 ancient Greek, Roman, and Celtic coin types featuring Medusa as a major and dramatic design element -- either the face of Medusa filling the coin's flan or as a disembodied head carried by Perseus. I'm not including here coin types in which the image of Medusa plays a smaller, less dramatic role, such as those in which the Medusa image appears at the center of a triskeles (three-leg design); on a shield or breastplate; as a decorative totem worn around the neck, on the shoulder, or on a cloak or helmet; as a secondary symbol in one of coin's fields; or as a countermark.

Perusing this list may give you ideas of coins to add to your want list or more insight into the coins you already have. Jerry Zayac is one collector who specializes in collecting Medusa coins. He says he first started collecting them when he came across "this ugly large coin" traveling in the Ukraine a few years ago. He wasn't looking for coins but just happened across an Olbian cast bronze in an antique shop, a coin that had been recovered locally near the ruins of Chersonesus. "From that point I just became fascinated with any depictions of Medusa on ancient coinage." He has a large and impressive collection, with fifty coins from twenty different cities, ranging from Italy to the Ukraine.

The following catalog of Medusa coins, as with all efforts of this type, is incomplete, a work-in-progress, though I believe it includes the most representative and interesting types, particularly those that are on the market frequently but also some that are seldom seen. Undoubtedly there are more. The types I've indicated as common are the most affordable; the types I've indicated as rare are among the most expensive.

I've taken a stylistic approach with the ancient Medusa coins categorized below. I've listed under the same type coins of the same style in different denominations from the same mint as well as coins that differ only slightly in style from the same or nearby mints. I've attributed these coins according to commonly used references. Special thanks to Gorgoneion coin specialist Ed Snible for reviewing the attributions, though any mistakes or omissions remain my own.

Greek Era Coins

Typically Medusa appears on Greek and related coins as a head facing front that fills the coin's flan. There are several main styles, with some coins combining two or more of these styles: Wild snake-hair, snakes around head in a snaky crown, subdued hair (sometimes with Medusa morphing into other figures such as Apollo, Helios, or Alexander the Great), wings on head, tongue protruding, tongue inside mouth, and baring teeth ferociously.

Medusa appears on both obverses and reverses of Greek coins, roughly twice as often on the obverse.

You can find Medusa on Greek-era coins of silver, bronze, gold, electrum, and billon. As with Greek coins in general, most were struck, but some were cast. They range from the very small (hemitartemorion, or 1/8 obol) to the very large (100-gram AE 70s), from the very inexpensive (about $15 or so) to many thousands of dollars. As one pricy example, relates dealer Barry Murphy, an Athenian wappenmünzen tetradrachm sold for the equivalent of $17,700 (including buyer's fee) though a Leu Numismatik auction in 1999. Very recently, a Syracusan gold tetralitron, with the Medusa image inside a shield on the obverse, sold through CNG's Triton VII auction for $63,250 (including buyer's fee).

Here are the major stylistic types:

Populonia, Etruria, didrachm and drachm, c. 5th-3rd century BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding and long hair, x's or v's beneath, R: blank or x-marks. Sear Greek 272-275.

Motya, Sicily, obol, c. 415-405 BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding and beaded hair, R: palm tree. Sear Greek 867. Also bronze (Sear Greek 1151).

Syracuse, Sicily, gold obol/didrachm, c. 405-380 BC. O: Athena left, R: Medusa with tongue protruding, wavy hair, and snakes circling head. Sear Greek 948. Also gold dilitron (rare).

Kamarina, Sicily, bronze trias and onkia, c. 413-405 BC. O: Medusa with tongue inside mouth, R: owl left holding lizard in claw, three pellets in exergue (trias, Sear Greek 1062), one pellet in exergue (onkia, Sear Greek 1064).

Himera, Sicily, bronze hemilitron, pentonkion, or trias, c. 430-420 BC. O: Medusa with smile and protruding tongue, hair standing on end, R: six pellets for hemilitron, five pellets for pentonkion, three pellets for trias. Sear Greek 1105-1107. Smaller bronzes also issued with two and one pellet on reverse.

Selinos, Sicily, cast bronze tetras, 17g, c. 435-415 BC. O: Medusa with teeth exposed, R: Medusa. Calciati I pg. 233, 2.

Selinos. Sicily, cast bronze trias, 10g, c. 435-415 BC. O: Medusa with placid face, R: Selinon leaf and four pellets above. Calciati I pg. 234, 3.

Selinos. Sicily, cast bronze tetras, 10g, c. 435-415 BC. O: Medusa with mouth open, R: celery leaf and three pellets above. Calciati I pg. 234, 4.

Olbia, Sarmatia, cast AE 70, c. 3rd to 1st century BC. O: Medusa with protruding tongue, R: eagle right holding dolphin. Sear Greek 1682. Also AE 70, Medusa with tongue inside mouth (described in some sources as Medusa, in some as "female head"), eagle right holding dolphin, and AE 35, Medusa with tongue inside mouth, eagle left holding dolphin.

Olbia, Sarmatia, cast AE 28-40, c. 3rd to 1st century BC. O: Medusa with tongue inside mouth, R: wheel spokes. Sear Greek 1683.

Apollonia Pontika, Thrace, drachm (common and commonly forged), c. 450-400 BC. O: anchor and crayfish, R: Medusa with tongue protruding and hair of snakes. Sear Greek 1655.

Apollonia Pontika, Thrace, drachm, c. 400-350 BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding and hair of snakes. R: anchor and crayfish. Similar to the above coin but Medusa is now on the obverse (convex) side.

Maroneia, Thrace, hemiobol, c. 398-385 BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding, R: grapes inside incuse square. Schornert-Geiss, Die Munzpragung von Maroneia 354.

Thraco-Macedonian hemiobol, c. 480-450 BC. O: Medusa with tongue inside mouth, R: kantharos (drinking cup) in incuse. CNG 58, lot 354.

Neapolis, Macedonia, archaic stater, drachm, and trihemiobol, c. 510-480 BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding and fierce expression, R: incuse square. Sear Greek 1303-1306.

Neapolis, Macedonia, classical drachm, hemidrachm (common), AE 11, c. 411-348 BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding, R: female head right, possibly Artemis. Sear Greek 1416-1418.

Amphipolis, Macedonia, AE 20-27, after 168 BC. during Roman period. O: Medusa with tongue inside mouth, long hair, wings in hair, R: helmeted Athena standing left, holding Nike, shield, spear. SNG Cop. 85, 86.

Athens wappenmünzen didrachm (rare), c. 545-515 BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding, R: incuse square. Sear Greek 1834. Fractions as well (Rosen 197, 198).

Athens wappenmünzen tetradrachm (rare), c. 515-510 BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding, R: bull within incuse square. Sear Greek 1835.

Athens wappenmünzen tetradrachm (rare), c. 515-510 BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding, R: lion/panther within incuse square. Sear Greek 1836.

Koroneia, Boeotia, obol, c. 375 BC. O: Boeotian shield, R: Medusa with K and O on either side. Sear Greek 2421.

Corinth trihemiobol, c. 350-306 BC. O: Pegasos left, R: Medusa with tongue inside mouth. Sear Greek 2638.

Seriphos, Cyclades, AE 17-20, c. 2nd century BC. O: helmeted Perseus, R: Medusa with subdued hair above harpa (sickle). Sear Greek 3142.

Methymna, Lesbos, diobol, c. 500-450 BC. O: Medusa with wide mouth, R: Athena left. Rosen 550.

Mytilene, Lesbos, archaic billon stater, c. mid-6th century BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding, wide mouth, and curly hair, R: incuse square. Sear Greek 3484.

Mytilene, Lesbos, electrum sixth stater/hecte, c. 521-478 BC. O: Medusa with wild hair and wide mouth, R: Bearded Herakles right, inside incuse square. BMC Troas etc. p.157, 14.

Mytilene, Lesbos, electrum sixth stater/hecte, c. 450-330 BC. O: Pan right, R: Medusa with tongue inside mouth and subdued hair, inside incuse square. Sear Greek 4246.

Abydos, Troas, drachm, 3/4 drachm, obol, hemiobol, hemitartemorion (1/8 obol), c. 480-450 BC. O: eagle left, R: Medusa with tongue protruding and wild hair. Sear Greek 4002-4006.

Amisos, Pontos, AE 26-31, c. late 2nd to early 1st century BC., O: Athena right, R: Perseus holding harpa (sickle) in right hand, Medusa's severed head in left hand, Medusa's body at his feet, AMI-SOY. Sear Greek 3637. Similar coins, with different inscriptions, from Kabeira (Sear Greek 3652), Komana (Sear Greek 3656), Amastris (Sear Greek 3674), Sinope (Sear Greek 3707), Chabacta (SNG BM Black Sea 1253), Pharnaceia (SNG BM Black Sea 1275), and Taulara (SNG BM Black Sea 1293).

Kyzikos, Mysia, electrum stater (rare), c. 478-413 BC., O: Medusa with tongue protruding, tunny (fish) below, R: incuse square. Boston MFA 1445.

Parion, Mysia, archaic drachm (sometimes referred to as 3/4 drachm or tetrobol), hemidrachm (common), c. 480 BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding, R: incuse square. Sear Greek 3917, 3918.

Parion, Mysia, classical hemidrachm (common), c. 350-300 BC. O: bull looking back, R: Medusa with tongue protruding and snakes circling head. Sear Greek 3919 (?A above bull, PI beneath), 3920 (club beneath bull), 3921 (grapes beneath bull), 3922 (star beneath bull).

Parion, Mysia, tetradrachm (rare), c. 2nd century BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding, R: Nike left carrying palm branch. Sear Greek 3923.

Parion, Mysia, AE 23/24, c. 2nd-1st century BC. O: Medusa with tongue in mouth, R: eagle right. SNG Von Aulock 1330.

Parion, Mysia, AE 17, c. 2nd-1st century BC. O: Medusa with tongue in mouth, R: bull right. SNG Cop. 273.

Miletos, Ionia, electrum stater, c. 600-550 BC. O: double Medusa, chin to chin, R: three punches. Sear Greek 3441.

Ephesos, Ionia, 1/12 stater, 1/24 stater, c. mid-6th century BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding, wide mouth, and wild hair, R: incuse square. Cf. Aufhäuser 14, lot 143, 144.

Selge, Pisidia, Asia Minor, trihemiobol (common), c. 370-360 BC. O: Medusa with protruding tongue, R: Athena. Sear Greek 5473 (Athena right), 5475 (Athena left).

Selge, Pisidia, trihemiobol (common), c. 3rd century BC. O: Medusa with long hair morphing into Apollo or Helios, R: Athena. Sear Greek 5478, 5479 (spear head behind Athena's head). Similar but less common coin from Etenna, Pisidia, with Athena, astragalos (knucklebone symbol), and harpa (sickle) on reverse, Head p. 708.

Selge, Pisidia, 3/4 obol, c. 3rd century BC. O: Medusa with long hair morphing into Apollo or Helios, R: lion right. Sear Greek 5480, 5481 (astragalos behind lion's head).

Etenna, Pisidia, obol, c. mid-4th century BC. O: Medusa with tongue inside mouth, R: harpa (sickle). Sear Greek 5457.

Aspendos, Pamphylia, bronze, c. 4th-3rd century BC. O: Medusa with tongue inside mouth and hair in big circles, R: caduceus. Sear Greek 5403.

Eikonion, Lycaonia, bronze, c. 2nd half of 1st century BC. O: Perseus carrying Medusa's disembodied head on his left shoulder, R: Zeus on throne. Sear Greek 5504.

Mallos, Cilicia, AE 11, 12, c. 375-360 BC. O: river god Pyramos or Triptolemos right, R: Medusa with snakes around head. Sear Greek 5572.

Soloi Pompeionpolis, Cilicia, AE 25, c. 2nd century BC. O: Medusa with wings, R: Aphrodite on bull galloping right. SNG von Aulock 5875.

Kelenderis, Celicia, AE 11, c. 2nd century BC. O: Medusa with tongue inside mouth, R: goat right, head reverted. SNG Levante 31.

Seleukos I AE 18-21, Antioch, c. 312-280 BC. O: winged head of a tame-looking Medusa right with tongue inside mouth and snakes in hair (sometimes described as Medusa with features of Alexander the Great), R: bull right. Sear Greek 6852. Also smaller sizes.

Arados, Phoenicia, diobol, c. 2nd-1st century BC. O: Medusa with tongue inside mouth, R: aplustre (boat ornament). Sear Greek 5995.

Samaria obol, c. 375-333 BC. Medusa with tame hair and tongue protruding, R: horse head right. Meshorer & Qedar 150.

Roman Era Coins

Medusa typically appears smaller or less ferociously on Roman Republic, Imperial, and Provincial coins. Many of the designs are copied from their Greek predecessors (as happened often with Roman coins in general and with much Roman culture, mythology, and technology).

On Roman coins Medusa appears most frequently on a shield, breastplate, or shoulder, typically the emperor's, indicating he was protected by the gods. But as with Greek coins, I'm including here only those Roman types that depict a dramatic Medusa -- filling the coin's flan or as a disembodied head carried by Perseus.

Here are the major stylistic types:

L. Cossutius Sabula denarius, c. 72 BC. O: tame-looking winged head of Medusa left, R: Bellerophon riding Pegasus right. Sear Millennium Edition 331.

L. Plautius Plancus denarius (common), c. 47 BC. O: Medusa smiling, R: Aurora or Victory conducting the four horses of the sun. Sear Millennium Edition 429.

Claudius AE 19, Claudiconium/Iconium, Galatia, c. 41-54 AD. O: Annius Afrinus right, R: Perseus holding head of Medusa. Sear Greek Imperial 5152.

Caracalla denarius (rare), Rome, c. 207 AD. O: Caraculla right, R: Medusa with wings, long hair, and forlorn expression. Sear Millennium Edition 6878. Similar coins of Septimius
Severus.

Maximinus I bronze, Anemorion, Cilicia, c. 235-238 AD., O: Maximinus I right, R: Perseus carrying head of Medusa in his left hand. SNG Delepierre 710.

Philip I bronze, Thrace, c. 244-249 AD. O: Gordian III right, R: Perseus standing left holding harpa (sickle) and Medusa's head with left hand using right hand to help Andromeda off rocks, dead sea monster at feet. Youroukova 445. Similar coins of Gordian III.

Trajan Decius AE 34, 35, Tarsus, Cilicia, c. 249-251 AD. O: Trajan Decius right, R: Perseus holding Medusa's head, Demeter, other male figure, bull. SNG Levante 1165.

Gallienus aes, Eikonion, Lycaonia, c. 253-268 AD. O: Gallienus right, R: Perseus carrying Medusa's head in right hand. BMC 15.

Victorinus aureus (rare), c. 268-270 AD. O: Victorinus, R: Medusa with closed mouth and snake hair. RIC 99.

Celtic Coins

Massalia, Gaul, hemiobol, c. 485-470 BC. O: Medusa with tongue protruding and big ears, R: incuse square. Rosen 4, 5.

Celtic drachm. O: Medusa, R: curvilinear horse left. OTA Taf. 18, 225.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medusa Coins

Medusa Background

Selected Medusa Coins

Medusa Coin Catalog

Apollonia Pontika Drachms

"New York Hoard" Forgeries

Parion Hemidrachms

Other Pseudonumia

More Info

Other glomworthy coins:

Oldest Coins

 Athenian Owls

Alexander the Great Coins

Medusa Coins

Thracian Tetradrachms

House of Constantine

Draped Bust Coins

Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles

Coin sites:
Coin Collecting: Consumer Protection Guide
Glomming: Coin Connoisseurship
Bogos: Counterfeit Coins
Pre-coins

© 2014 Reid Goldsborough

Note: Any of the items illustrated on these pages that are in my possession are stored off site.