Friday, 30 April 2021


An abraxas is an invented word or symbol. An ancient charm word engraved on gemstones composed of seven Greek letters, which when converted to numerals, totaled 365 (the number of heavens by Gnostic sect). Abraxas is considered the Supreme Unknown in gnostic theogony and the source of 365 emanations in Persian mythology. His name is found on gems and amulets, and is associated with the word “abracadabra.”
Abrasax stones are ancient gemstones engraved with the word Abrasax, or the images of the god, or both the image and inscriptions.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Roman Solidus of Julian

This very rare solidus of Julian, in G to VF condition, was struck in Constantinople and is estimated around $2,500. Introduced in the fourth century, the solidus replaced the aureus. Roman emperor Julian, reigning from 361 to 363, is notable for being the last pagan ruler of the Roman Empire. Christian writers referred to him as “Julian the Apostate.” Toleration for Christianity turned to suppression and persecution. Pagans were openly preferred for official appointments, and Christians were expelled from the army. Motivated by a desire for military glory Julian assembled the largest Roman army (65,000 strong and backed by a fleet) ever to head a campaign against Persia. The incompent Romans were routed. During a disastrous retreat from the walls of Ctesiphon, (below modern Baghdad), Julian was wounded by a spear thrown “no one knew whence” which pierced his liver. He died the next night at age 31, having been emperor for 20 months.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Gold Aureus of Domitian

The aureus was the standard gold coin of the Romans for over three hundred years. The Julio-Claudian dynasty that Augustus founded in 27 BCE lasted until 68 CE when Nero was overthrown. After a civil war (68-69), a new dynasty took the imperial throne. It was founded by general Vespasian, the conqueror of Judaea. He would rule from 69 to 79, after which he was succeeded by his sons Titus (79-81) and Domitian (81-96).
This aureus was struck at the mint in Rome in 79 CE under Vespasian but features Domitian on the obverse as his “Caesar”. It is graded VF+/EF. It weighs 7.44 grams. Catawiki estimates that the coin will sell for between $16,442 and $18,237 USD.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Pyrrhic Victory

Bust of Pyrrhos - if “we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”
When the Romans broke a treaty with Taras to subdue an adjacent Greek city, Taras expelled the Roman garrison from the captured township. The Romans sought revenge. Taras appealed for help to King Pyrrhos of Epirus in northwestern Greece. Pyrrhos embarked upon the Pyrrhic War of 280-275 B.C.E. A skilled commander, with a strong army fortified by war elephants, Pyrrhus had initial success against the Roman legions, but suffered heavy losses even in victory.

Three battles represent the origin of the phrase “Pyrrhic victory” The battle of Heraclea was a decisive victory for Pyrrhus, who employed a tight phalanx formation with elephant charges.
Though the win was complete, it caused high casualties of Pyrrhus’ best troops.
The next battle of Asculum was a similar result; the Romans attempted to repulse the elephants with war wagons but failed. The Romans withdrew to higher ground. The Romans were worse off, but Pyrrhus lost thousands of men and his best officers.

The battle of Beneventum was either inconclusive, a Roman victory or a victory for Pyrrhus. The Romans repulsed the elephants and send them rampaging through Pyrrhus’ lines. The result drove him from Italy and in 278 B.C.E. Pyrrhos abandoned Taras to its fate.
He returned in 275 B.C.E., but was soundly defeated and returned to Epirus. Three years later Taras was besieged and the city finally fell to the Romans.
A superbly struck example of a rare gold stater from the ancient Greek city state of Taras (Tarentum) in southern Italy, a.k.a. Calabria. The 8.55 g coin dates from 276-272 BC. The obverse shows the head of Zeus. On the reverse an eagle with wings displayed perches on a thunderbolt.
$ 18,000 in VF.
Taras or Tarentum, in Calabria, is modern Taranto in southern Italy.

Friday, 16 April 2021

Nymphaeum Museum in Rome

The Rome headquarters of the National Insurance and Assistance Body for Doctors and Dentists is in the Piazza Vittorio section of the city. 13 feet under the lobby of the country’s leading medical pension fund are the restored ruins of Casa Caligula. After a nine-year excavation, it will open to the public for the first time.

Caligua declared himself a god and spoke of making his horse ´Incitatus´ a senator.
Caligula, officially Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, is recorded as a sadistic lunatic and one of Rome's worst tyrants. Sources describe his cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversion. He was born in the year 12 and spent his childhood in military camps along the Rhine with his father Germanicus, one of the great Roman generals of his time. His mother, Agrippina the Elder, the granddaughter of Augustus himself, used to dress Gaius up as a soldier, down to the caliga sandals on his feet.
In early 41, Caligula was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy by officers of the Praetorian Guard, senators, and courtiers.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

1937 Edward VIII Gold Pattern 5 Sovereign $2.2m

This Great Britain 1937 Edward VIII Gold Pattern 5 Sovereign graded NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo had an estimate of $1m. It made $2.2m. It is one of two known in private hands. Only a few pattern coins were produced for Edward VIII after his coronation in 1936. Less than a year into his reign, he gave up the throne, and his coinage was never issued.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Ancient Gold in Kazakhstan - 'Golden Man' of Saka

A discovery from 'Yeleke Sazy' burial mound is that of a 17-to-18-year-old noble, dressed in gold. The finds date to the 7th or 8th century BC. The garments and boots of the young man were embroidered with gold beads. There is a one-kilogram torc on his neck. He had a golden dagger and a golden quiver.
The finds are from the Tarbagatai district of East Kazakhstan. The discovered gold bears evidence of cutting-edge technology. The finds suggest that people of that time had developed metallurgical expertise; mining, ore concentration, and smelting.
Discovered in the burial of Alike Sazy were arrow tips made of bronze. The artifacts are extremely well preserved and still remain sharp. These arrows were likely used for ritual purposes or as grave goods.Grave of princess of Ukok

The Princess of Ukok

Saturday, 3 April 2021

DNA suggests Vikings may have been plagued by smallpox

Researchers collected DNA from viruses in the remains of northern Europeans living during the Viking Age, some of whom were likely Vikings themselves. They were infected with extinct but related versions of the variola virus that causes smallpox.

It is still uncertain when the virus that causes smallpox first began to infect people. The disease is estimated to have killed as many as 500 million people.
Researchers isolated viral DNA from human teeth and bones, like this 1,200-year-old smallpox-infected Viking skeleton found in Öland, Sweden. The team reconstructed nearly complete genetic blueprints of four of the 11 ancient viruses. During that period, smallpox may have been widespread throughout Europe and could have caused serious disease.

Friday, 2 April 2021

The Berthouville Treasure

A cache of pearl and emerald-encrusted rings, bracelets, gold necklaces and other opulent objects from the Roman Empire were displayed at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades in 2015. The assortment of precious jewelry accompanies the 90-piece gilt-silver Berthouville Treasure of statuettes and ornamental vessels that were found by a French farmer plowing a field in 1830. The treasure consists of silver and other metalwork and dates in the 1st to late 2nd centuries
Both are on loan from the royal collection of the Cabinet des Médailles at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Cameo of Emperor Trajan, Roman, about A.D. 100; sardonyx set in a seventeeth-century gold, enamel, and ruby mount

Pitcher with Scenes from the Trojan War, Roman, A.D. 1-100; silver and gold. Achilles dragging the body of Hector around the walls of Troy

Pitcher with Scenes from the Trojan War (detail), Roman, A.D. 1-100; silver and gold. The death of Achilles

Offering Bowl with a Medallion of Mercury in a Rural Shrine (detail), Roman, A.D. 175-225; silver and gold