Apollo (Apollon, Phoibos, Phoebus) was the god of arts (protector of the nine Muses) and of light, being the son of Jupiter (Zeus) and goddess Leto and brother of Diana (Artemis).
He killed at Delphi (Delphoi) the giant serpent Python and put the bases of his oracle, the most important in Greece. At Delphi the priestess Pythia delivered the believers the answers of Apollo himself to their questions.
Apollo liked nymph Daphne. To escape the god's advances, Daphne asked help from her father, the river-god Peneus (Pinios) who turn her into the laurel. Apollo adorned his lyre and hair with laurel leaves and decided for the future that competition winners be crowned with laurel as well. So Apollo appears crowned with laurel wreaths on the reverse (see picture above).
The Romans consecrated him the Apollonian Games; emperor Augustus deemed Apollo as personal protector.
As male Apollo was the ideal of masculine beauty.
Goddess Artemis (Diana at Romans) was one of the Apollo's sisters, therefore daughter of Zeus (Jupiter) but also of goddess Leto. Artemis was the goddess of hunting, of wild animals, of conjugal faithfulness and of the moonlight. Her temple in Efesus - Artemision - was considered one of the wonders of the antiquity.
Asclepius (Aesculapius at Romans) was the god of medicine. He was son of Apollo and of a daughter of a Greek king, and he was born in Epidaurus, into Peloponnese, where a large sancuary of Asclepius functioned. Asclepius was raised by Chiron, a Centaurus, from whom he learned the art of healing. Because he managed even to raise the deads, Zeus was angry and struck him with a thunderbolt. After death Asclepius was transformed into a constellation. Podalirius and Machaon, the medics of the Greeks during the Trojan War, were sons of Asclepius. He had also a daughter, Hygieia, personification of health, who also appeared on coins.
Goddess Athena (Minerva for Romans) was the daugther of Zeus and goddess Metis, herself daugther of Titan Ocean. Zeus swallowed Metis and at the time of birth Athena came out of the master's of the world head, golden shielded and plated and wielding a lance. She was the goddess of wisdom, of warcraft, also protecting science. Athena taught men architecture, sculpture and painting, pottery, weaving and embroiding. The ensigns of the goddess were the owl (symbol of wisdom) and the snake (standing for prudence). Athena decided that the symbol for peace would be the olive branch.
The city of Athens was named after the goddess that gave the Athenians the olive tree and tamed the wild horse gifted by Poseidon (Neptun for Romans). Election of the god to protect the new city was decided by a vote to which women were allowed too. Men chose Poseidon and women - one more than men - chose Athena. To deal with Poseidon's anger Athenians decided that never after the woman to be equal to man. They also built on the acropolis the Shrine of Forgetting, promising the god to be worthy warriors too, not just peaceful ploughmen and gifted craftsmen.
The cult of goddess Cybele or Kybele, surnamed Magna Mater (Great Mother of Gods) originated in Asia Minor. The cult spread in all Greek and Roman regions. Cybele was worshipped as mother of all gods and humans, mistress of whole nature and of the human destiny. The orgiastic cult of Cybele had mysteries and secret rituals. The goddess was often represented wearing mural crown and holding scepter, cornucopia or tympanum (a drum), in a chariot pulled by lions, with a lion sitting near her or riding a lion.
Greek goddess Demeter (Roman Ceres), grand daughter of Uranus, daughter of Cronus (Roman Saturn) and sister of Zeus, was master of agriculture, legislation and civil life. The goddess taught Triptolemos the craft of ploughing and sent him in the worlds to teach other people. The Eleusinian mysteries were celebrated inside her temple of Eleusis (city near Athens), famous throughout the Greek and Roman world.
Hades, the ruler of the Underworld, abducted Persephone, the daughter of the goddess. Nine days and nine nights the desperate mother tried to find her daughter, walking with torches in both hands. The ensigns of the goddess were the corn ear, the daffodil and the poppy. Sometimes Demeter was represented sitting, with torches in hands.
Dionysos (Bacchus for Romans) was the god of the grapevine, of vegetation generally, of wine and parties. His father was Zeus and his mother Semele, daugther of Kadmos (Cadmos), king of the city of Thebes in Boeotia. In fact, he is an even older deity that the old Greeks imported from the Thracians, just like Orpheus. Since the old Dacians are responsible for cultivating grapes as a form of agriculture, it is supposedly possible that the origins of Dionysos are to be sought for in Dacia as part of Thrace. Fooled by Hera, Semele asks Zeus to show himself in all his glory. From the lightnings surrounding the great god the castle is set on fire and Semele dies in the tragedy, though not before Zeus saving the tiny unborn baby god whom he bore inside his thigh until birth time. That is the reason for which Dionysos was surnamed Dithyrambus, id est born twice (that in effect is why a certain impassionate hymn for chorus dedicated for Dionysos was called dithyramb, the word still existing today).
Dionysos was raised by Ino, his mother's sister, by witch Mystis of Sidon (from whose name the word mystical derived) and by the ever drunk satyr Silen. Mystis gave the god the thyrsus, a staff adorned with ivy and grapevine leaves, having a pine cone atop, a staff that was at the same time a weapon.
Dionysos roamed the world, accompanied by a party of bacchanals (bacchant or bacchante) and satyrs, thus spreading the culture of grapevine. The celebrations of Dionysos were named dionysiacs, orgies or baccanals.
Most beloved by Greeks all over, Pontic colonists on the nowadays Romanian shore did not fail to praise and glorify him properly. Kallatis (Callatis) celebrated most fastuously the dionysiac mysteries and at Histria a dedicated temple was discovered. While digging foundations near the old railroad station in the municipium of Constanşa in 1962, a treasure of sculptures was discovered; among those two friezes had Dionysos (Bacchus) as the main figure. Most often Dionysos was impersonated standing, with a wreath of ivy and vine leaves on the forehead, holdind in the right hand a scyphus with footed base and two handles (a cantharus, some sort of decanter) and the thyrsus in the left.
Sometimes Dionysos is represented wearing kothurni (or cothurni, cothurnus at singular), a kind of boots.
Hades (Pluto at Romans) was the master of the subterranean realm. He was son of Titan Cronus and Rhea, being brother with Zeus and Poseidon. The underworld is the final destination for the dead, who must pay for the crossing of Acheron River into the boat of Charon. For paying the crossing, the dead holds a small coin - an obolus - into the mouth - the famous Charon's obol. (The ancient Greeks often used the mouth as purse!)
The name Hades means "the unseen" - because during the long war with the Titans the god had received from the Cyclops a magical cap, that made the wearer invisible. His name was so very feared, that he was referred to with euphemisms - usually he was called Pluton, "the rich one". Rarely represented, Hades sometimes wore a modius on his head - a basket for wheat, with a capacity of 8-9 liters, as symbol of the underworld.
Hades was married with Kore-Persephone, daughter of goddess Demeter. Because Persephone was abducted by Hades, the wrath of Demeter was terrible, and a drought destroyed all the crops. Finally an agreement was set - Persephone had to stay one third of each year into the underworld.
Several mythological heroes descended into the Underworld - Theseus, Herakles, Orpheus, Ulysses. Hades was a pitiless god, and he did not accept anyone to leave his realm. In spite of this habit of Hades, Herakles entered and came out of the Underworld - one of his labour consisting in the capture of Cerberus, the monstrous three-headed dog.
Helios (Sol for the Romans) was the personification of the Sun. He was the son of Uranus, being one of the Titans. Helios was represented as a young man with the head encircled by sun rays. He driven daily on the sky the chariot of the Sun, pulled by four steeds.
Hera (Juno at Romans) was sister and wife of Zeus, being daughter of Cronus and Rhea. She was mother of Ares, Greek god of war, and also of Hephaestus, god of craftsmen. She was protector of married women and of marriage. Because Zeus was renowned for his infidelities, Hera was very jealous on her numerous rivals. Her revenges were often terrible. She spread her rage also over men, Heracles, for example, having been persecuted by Hera during his entire mortal life (before he bore name of Alcides, after the conflict with Hera and his atonement of twelve labours being known as Hera kleos = Glory of Hera). Durind Trojan War the goddess supported the Greek part, as Paris had given the golden apple to Aphrodite and not to herself or Athena.
Heracles or Herakles (Hercules for the Romans) was the son of Zeus and of Alcmene, a mortal woman. He was endowed with an extraordinary physical strength. The original name of the hero was Alcides; the high priestess Phytia of Delphi imposed him to bear the name Heracles as expiation. In literal sense Heracle means "glory of Hera". Hera, jealous and angry because of Zeus' infidelity, constantly hated Heracles and tried for many times to kill him. Heracles was forced to carry out for his cousin Eurystheus twelve labors. After his death Heracles became god. As god he reached a high popularity for both Greeks and Romans.
The slaying of the Nemean lion - the first of the Heracles' labors
The Nemean lion was the son of Echidna. His skin was impenetrable, so the arrows shot by Hercules did not have any result. The lion was menaced by Heracles with the club and forced to retreat into his cave. Cornered, the monster was strangled by Heracles with his bare hands. Using the claws of the lion, Heracles skinned it. Heracles used the head of the lion as helmet and the skin as armor.
The well known Heracles' club was made from an old wild olive tree during the hunt of the Nemean lion.
The golden apples of Hesperides - the last of Heracles' labors
The Hesperides were three nymphs that, together with a hundred headed monster, guarded a garden near Mount Atlas where the apple trees with golden fruits were planted. From the sea god Nereus - defeated in battle - Heracles learned about the road to the orchard of Hesperides. From Prometheus Heracles learned that he had to persuade the titan Atlas to pick the golden apples. Atlas was condemned by Zeus to support the sky (the celestial sphere) on his shoulders. In order to free Atlas that was to pick the apples, Heracles took over the difficult task of sustaining the sky. Of course, after he gathered the golden apples, Atlas refused to take again the burden of the sky. Heracles asked the titan to hold again the sky just for a short time, enough to put a pillow on his shoulders. Atlas was tricked and Heracles took the golden apples and fled.
Hermes (Mercury at the Romans) was the son of Zeus and nymph Maia. It was a very precocious child. In his very first day of life he stole some of the herds guarded by Apollo and also invented the lyre. Sent by Zeus, Hermes killed the many-eyed giant Argus (the giant guarded Io, at Hera's order). Hermes was the messenger of Zeus and protector of the commerce, travelers, roads and crossroads, of the thievery. Usually Hermes is represented as a young man wearing winged cap and holding caduceus. Sometimes the god holds a purse and has winged sandals. The animals dedicated to Hermes were the turtle, the ram, the goat, the scorpion, the rooster.
Hygieia (Hygeia) was the personification of Health. She was daughter of Asklepios, appearing in the cult of her father. So Hygieia was granddaughter of god Apollo. She is represented often as a young woman with a snake coiled around the body or feeding a snake. From the name of the goddess came the word hygiene.
Isis is an Egyptian goddess. Isis was goddess of mariage, identified by Greeks as Demeter, sister of Zeus (therefore Ceres for Romans). She also patronized agriculture, legislation and civil life.
Kastor and Pollux (or Castor and Polux), the Dioscuri brothers, are divinities of Greek origin, having been worshipped also by Romans. They are the sons of Leda and Zeus (Dioscuri meaning sons of Zeus). Leda was the wife of king Tyndareus of Sparta in Laconia. Deluded by Zeus, Leda laid two eggs, from which two pairs of twins hatched: Kastor and Klytaimnestra (Clitemnestra) as children of Tyndareus out of one egg but also Pollux and Helen (the one kidnapped by Paris of Troy) as children of Zeus of the other.
As son of Zeus, Pollux was immortal. When Castor got killed in a fight, Pollux asked his father Zeus to allow him to share immortality with his brother. Zeus agreed, deciding the Dioscuri to spend half of their time on Olympus and half in inferno. The father of gods turned the two brothers into stars. Gemini (the Twins) is one of the sky constellations on which the zodiac is based. Its main stars are Castor - magnitudine 1.6 - and Pollux - magnitudine 1.2. The two stars belong to the category of stars that have rise and set. Accordingly, most frequently the Dioscuri are represented with a star each above one's head - the very case of he coin pictured above. Often they appear on horseback, wielding spears in their hands, their heads covered with round helms as tokens of Leda's eggs.
Castor and Pollux symbol ideal brotherly love. They were worshipped as protectors of navigation and athletism.
Nemesis was the goddess of retribution and of the divine justice. She harshly punished the bad actions, the crimes, and moral law breakings. Nemesis rigurously weighed the hapiness and the sadness of people, assuring the balance and equilibrum of all things. Sometimes she took actions agains the ones helped by Tyche, the goddess of capricious luck. Nemesis was daughter of goddess Nyx or Night. His father was Oceanos - or maybe Erebus, or even Zeus.
The attributes of goddess Nemesis was the wheel, the rudder, the apple branch, the sword, the lash, the rein, the scales and the cubit. Sometimes Nemesis is represented as a winged goddess.
Nike (Victoria at the Romans) was the winged goddess of victory, being the daughter of giant Pallas and river Styx (who was herself daughter of Titan Okeanos, Oceanus). The name means to attack or to fight. Nike was usually an attribute of Zeus or of Athena. Customarily she is represented with wings, holding in hands a palm tree leaf or a laurel wreath.
For the ancient Greeks Pontos was a personification of all seas. As a specific personification of the Black Sea - Pontus Euxinus, Pontos was often represented as an acolyte of goddess Tyche / Fortuna (acolyte = secondary character used in a deity's iconography). Fortuna and Pontos are represented together on several coins of Tomis.
Serapis or Sarapis was a Greek-Egyptian god, closely resembling Hades. His cult was spread mainly in the Oriental part of the Roman Empire.
Tyche (Fortuna for the Romans) was the goddess of the capricious and arbitrary luck. She was the daughter of Titan Ocean and Titaness Tetis. She was worshipped by urban communities, and as result she was represented bearing a mural (wall) crown. On the coins her placement is sitting or standing, accompanied as atributes by the horn of plenty, the wheel - as symbol of unsteadiness, the world globe - symbol of universality, rudder or prow (the later two being Roman originated).
Zeus (Jupiter of Jove at the Romans) was the most important god of the Greek pantheon, master of the sky, king of the gods and humans. Zeus was son of Titan Cronus and of his wife Rhea, being born in the island of Crete. For taking over the power Zeus made a ten year war with the Titans. He was allied with his brothers and sisters, but also with the Cyclopes (they provided him the thunderbolt) and with Hecatonchires. Zeus had many wives and sweethearts - goddesses and mortal women - and a large number of sons and daughters.