Mike Markowitz published a nice article about horses on ancient coins on CoinWeek April 12, 2016. Here's an excerpt - be sure
to read the complete article online. -Editor
MORE THAN ANY OTHER ANIMAL (except perhaps the dog), the horse is beloved for its strength, intelligence, speed, loyalty and beauty. The
earliest images of horses created by people appear on the walls of Chauvet Cave in France, dated to almost 30,000 years ago. People first
domesticated horses for riding about seven thousand years ago on the Eurasian steppes. In the Greek epic the Iliad (first written down c.
750 BCE) the Trojan hero Hektor bears the epithet “tamer of horses” (hippodamoio).
A full-grown horse eats about five times as much as a man. Although a horse can eat grass (men generally cannot,) horses put out to
pasture must spend much of the day grazing and digesting. Working horses require a high-quality diet of grain, and in the ancient world
this made them costly to maintain. Only the wealthy could afford to keep horses, so they became symbols of aristocratic status and
It is not surprising that horses appeared on a wide variety of ancient coins.
The head of a horse wearing an elaborate bridle and bit appears at the very dawn of coinage on small, rare electrum (gold and silver alloy)
pieces from an uncertain mint of Ionia on the coast of the Aegean around 600 – 550 BCE. On such archaic coins, the front half of the horse,
or protome, was more common than the entire animal. We see this on a spectacular Ionian stater, possibly from Ephesos c. 575-560 BCE. In a
2013 European auction this rare piece sold for nearly $34,000.
A “prancing” horse appears on the obverse of the only type attributed to the last native Egyptian pharaoh, the gold stater of Nektanebo
II (360-342 BCE, 30th Dynasty). These coins were issued to pay Greek mercenaries, who were accustomed to payment in gold. Only about 42
examples of this coin are recorded; the most recent to appear on the market sold for US$130,000 in the Triton XIX sale (5 January 2016, Lot
Horses and Riders
For king Philip II of Macedon, 356 BCE was a good year. One of his horses won a race at the Olympic games, and he commemorated this victory
on his coinage. In Greek, the name Philippos means “horse lover”
To read the complete article, see:
Horses on Ancient Coins
Wayne Homren, Editor
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