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Tomis - 4.5 assaria - Gordian III and Tranquillina / Hades - Serapis
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Gordian III and Tranquillina / Hades - Serapis - 4.5 assaria - reverse
27.8 mm diameter, 12.39 g, bronze
Obverse: confronted busts of Gordian III and Sabinia Tranquillina, cuirassed and draped Gordian III to the right, draped Sabinia Tranquillina to the left, wearing "stephane" crown, legend AVTKMANTΓOPΔIANO[CAVΓ · CE] TPANKV[Λ] ΛEINA, outer pearl circle
Reverse: Hades or Serapis sitting on a throne without back, to the left, wearing chiton and himation, right extended over Cerberus, his three-headed dog, with scepter in left hand, value D< (Δ<) into the field, legend [MHTPO]ΠO N TOVTO MEΩC, outer pearl circle

The ancient coin on the page is present on Romanian coins through the kind permission of Mr. Pavlos S. Pavlou.

The coin corresponds to the description at number 2286 in the Moushmov catalog and is described in AMNG I at position 3513 (AMNG = Die antiken Münzen Nord-Griechenlands, B. Pick, 1898).

About the denomination of the coin

The denomination value is marked by letter Δ together with sign <. Letter Δ being the fourth of the alphabet, stands for the value of 4. The half of assarion was marked by an <, so the coin is worth 4.5 assaria.

Denomination assarion / assaria was used for the name of bronze coins issued by several towns on the western and northern border of the Black Sea (Tomis, Callatis, Chersones, Tyras, Olbia and plenty more). At Tomis coins of 1 assarion, 2, 3, 4 and 5 assaria were struck, bearing as digits Α, Β, Γ, Δ and Ε. Coins with intermediate values were also issued.

The coins of 4 assaria and a half are specific to Tomis, while the design with confronted busts is specific to the provincial large 5 assaria pieces. A possible explanation was proposed here. These coin were local coins. In spite of the fact that the value of 1 denarius was, officially, 16 asses, it is quite possible that in local money the denarius was worth more. If 1 Roman denarius was equal with 18 asses from Tomis, than it could be exchanged for four coins of 4.5 assaria. In that case the issue of coins having such unusual denomination can be explained by the need of coins fit for money exchanges.

About the legend on the obverse

The legend accompanying the busts of emperor Gordian III and of his wife Tranquillina is AVT K M ANTΓOPΔIANOC AVΓ · CE TPANKVΛΛEINA, standing for the Greek translation of Latin IMPERATOR CAESAR MARCUS ANTONIUS GORDIANUS and TRANQUILLINA AUGUSTA.

About Greek god Hades

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.

About Serapis

Serapis or Sarapis was a Greek-Egyptian god, closely resembling Hades. His cult was spread mainly in the Oriental part of the Roman Empire.


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