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.

Monday, 26 April 2021

The aureus

The aureus was a gold coin of ancient Rome originally valued at 25 pure silver denarii. The aureus was regularly issued from the 1st century BC to the beginning of the 4th century AD, when it was replaced by the solidus.

The aureus was about the same size as the denarius, but heavier due to the higher density of gold. Caesar began striking the coin more often, and standardized the weight at 1/40th of a Roman pound (about 8 grams).
This unique gold aureus of Augustus Caesar realized $781,675 U.S. Augustus (29 BC – 14 AD) decreed the value of the sestertius as 1/100th of an aureus. The aureus was decreased to 1/45th of a pound (7.3 g) during the reign of Nero (54–68). After the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161–180) the weight fell to 1/50th of a pound (6.5 g).
The solidus was introduced by Diocletian (284–305) around 301 AD, struck at 60 to the Roman pound (5.5 g) and with an initial value equal to 1,000 denarii. The solidus was reintroduced by Constantine I (306–337) in 312 AD, permanently replacing the aureus as the gold coin of the Roman Empire. The solidus was struck at a rate of 72 to a Roman pound of pure gold, 4.5 grams of gold. Inflation was affected by the debasement of the silver denarius, which by the mid-3rd century had practically no silver left in it.
In 301, one gold aureus was worth 833 denarii; by 324, the same aureus was worth 4,350 denarii. In 337, after Constantine converted to the solidus, one solidus was worth 275,000 denarii and finally, by 356, one solidus was worth 4,600,000 denarii.
See ----->Decline of Roman Silver Coinage

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Roman Concrete

Roman concrete, also called opus caementicium, was a material used in construction until the fading of the Roman Empire. Roman concrete was based on a hydraulic-setting cement. Two thousand years ago, Roman builders constructed vast seawalls and harbour piers. The concrete they used outlasted the empire. Half-sunken structures off the Italian coast might not sound impressive but the marvel is in the material. The harbour concrete, a mixture of volcanic ash and quicklime, has withstood the sea for two millennia and counting. It is even stronger than when it was first mixed.
Scientists subjected the concrete samples to a battery of advanced imaging techniques and spectroscopic tests. The tests revealed a rare chemical reaction, with aluminous tobermorite crystals growing out of another mineral called phillipsite.

The key ingredient proved to be seawater. As seawater percolated within the tiny cracks in the Roman concrete it reacted with the phillipsite naturally found in the volcanic rock and created the tobermorite crystals.

Microscopic image shows the lumpy calcium-aluminum-silicate-hydrate (C-A-S-H) binder material that forms when volcanic ash, lime, and seawater mix.

Caesarea Concrete Bath
The Romans mined a specific type of volcanic ash from a quarry in Italy. Modern seawalls require steel reinforcement. The Romans didn’t use steel. Their reactive concrete was more than strong enough on its own.

Friday, 23 April 2021

The Highest Paid Athlete in History - Gaius Appuleius Diocles

Gaius Appuleius Diocles was born in 104 A.D in Lamecum, Portugal the capital city of Lusitania, province of Emerita Augusta (modern-day Mérida, Spain). His father owned a transport business and the family was well off. Diocles is believed to have started racing at the age of 18 in Ilerda.
Roman obsession with panem et circenses (bread and games) showed what the people valued most, the grain dole and chariot races in the Circus. Life expectancy of a charioteer was short. One such celebrity driver was Scorpus, who won 2,048 races before being killed when he was about 26.
Diocles survived until his retirement at age 42.
Diocles earned 35,863,120 Roman sesterces in his lifetime - a figure that would amount to about $15 billion in today's money. The number is inscribed on a monument in Rome, erected for Diocles by his fans at the end of a 24-year career. The most famous races took place at Circus Maximus, a sports arena in Rome.
Races began when the emperor dropped his napkin and ended seven laps later. Those who didn't get maimed or killed and finished in the top three won prizes.

Diocles most commonly raced four-horse chariots, and in most of his races he came from behind to win. Diocles is also notable for owning an extremely rare ducenarius, a horse that had won at least 200 races. Records show that he won 1,462 out of the 4,257 four-horse races he competed in.

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.

Friday, 9 April 2021

First Spear Centurion - Primus Pilus

The Primus pilus was the senior centurion of the first cohort in a Roman legion. The name Primus Pilus is translated to "first spear". He was a career soldier and advisor to the legate. While normal cohorts were composed of five to eight centuries, the one led by the primus pilus had ten centuries, 800 men. It also had 200 staff, such as cooks and clerks.
In modern terms the primus pilus would be considered a lieutenant colonel. The primus pilus was a well paid position. Only eight officers in a full legion outranked the primus pilus.
Altar by Marcus Aurelius Cocceius Florianus, who was Primus Pilus of the Legio X Gemina.

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