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Apollo seated with lyre:
New reverse type in Ancient Hispania coinage

Sergio Lendines (*) y Manuel Pina (**)   




The numismatic representations of Apollo in the ancient Iberian Peninsula are limited to the archaic obols of Emporion and four mints of Roman Baetica: Obulco, Carbula, Salpesa and Carteia, always dealing with simple busts, not complete figures. Logically the only lyres, an ancient musical instrument attributed to Apollo, are also found in these same five mints.

The appearance of a new issue of semisses belonging to the Carteia mint, which represents for the first time Apollo seated holding a lyre, once again highlights the innovative nature of this mint's production.

Let us therefore see the only (and not published) seated Apollo represented in the coinage of Ancient Hispania.





As lovers of Carteian mintages, we recently became aware of a Carteia mintage not known to date. We do not know the specific data of its discovery, although we think that it must have been a casual find in the field of Gibraltar (Cádiz). The coin (see image no. 1) has a weight of 6.46 gr, a diameter of 22 mm and its mint axis is 1 h. With these data it can be affirmed that it is a semis that constitutes one more example in the extensive production of the same that the city of Carteia coined.

Image no. 1.- New Carteia semis - 6.46 gr / 22 mm / 1 h - Private collection

The appearance of such an exceptional reverse can predispose us to think that it could be a forgery, however there is nothing to make us suspect it. Its style is fully consistent with the minting of this mint between the end of the 1st century BC and early I AD, and its appearance shows us concretions and deposits of cuprite and malachite, copper oxides and carbonates that are practically impossible to forge (see image no. 2).

Image no. 2.- Concretions and deposits of cuprite and malachite - See: "¿Es falso mi denario?"

The obverse presents the more than well-known turreted female head (Tyche, goddess of the city) and to the right of the field appears the curved legend CARTEIA in descending direction. All of this framed in a border of dots.

The reverse shows Apollo to the right, seated on what appears to be some rocks and dressed with a tunic.. This figure holds in his left hand a lyre that rests between his legs. The right hand is used as a support on the rocks. His hair appears to be long, semi-tied up with a bow, although the poor condition of the coin casts doubt on this. In the field on the right, the letters D D (decreto decurionum) can be seen and, like the obverse, everything is framed in a border of dots. An imagined recreation of this character can be seen in image no. 3.

Image no. 3.- Seated Apollo holding a lyre (approximate interpretation of the reverse).
Drawing by Belén Gómez Ramírez "BEGORA".



The roman Colonia Libertinorum Carteia was one of the first Latin colonies outside of Italian territory, being founded in 171 BC over an area of undoubted Pheno-Punic ancestry, giving rise to the first generations of Hispano-Romans.

Colony located in the Cortijo del Rocadillo, between San Roque and Algeciras (Cádiz), which from the second half of the 2nd century BC issued abundant Ae, always in the form of divisors and with Latin legends that often indicate the name of the monetary magistrate, but with a very varied Roman-Punic-Hellenistic iconography, which makes this mint one of the most interesting in all of Ancient Hispania.

According to the indications of Francisca Chaves Tristán in her work: "Las Monedas Hispano-Romanas de Carteia" (Barcelona, 1979), the representations of the turreted head of female right appear in the numerary of this mint around the year 55 BC practically becoming the main motif of the obverse until the closing of the mint around the year 15 AD.

However this motif, so common in ancient coinage, was not used in Hispania, with the exception of the mint that concerns us, possibly due to the commercial interrelation with the North African mints that did represent it. (See image no. 4).

Image no. 4.- As (autonomous bronze) from Caesarea - 13.38 gr - RPC I 880
Clasical Numismatics Groupe (05-15-2017)

The style of the obverse of our coin (see image 5A) is very similar to that of some examples found in Chaves issue 29 (RPC I 122) dated between the end of the 1st century BC and early I AD (images 5B, 5C and 5D). We can see that it corresponds to the most refined art in this type of bust.

The four obverses shown do not belong to the same die, although we would dare to say that they were the work of the same engraver. The busts are practically identical andand the only differences can be found in the legend, with the coin in question perhaps having a slightly thicker line.

Image no. 5A.- 6.46 gr - Semis of Carteia object of this study - Unpublished
Image no. 5B.- Semis of Carteia - 6.16 gr - RPC I 122 - Tauler & Fau Subastas (19-02-2019)
Image no. 5C.- Semis of Carteia - 8.83 gr - RPC I 122 - Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger (02-11-2011)
Image no. 5D.- Semis of Carteia - 6.07 gr - RPC I 122 - Jesús Vico, S.A. (26-11-2020)

Although there could be doubts about the attribution of the figure on the reverse with Apollo, it should be noted that the city of Carteia minted a few years earlier, around the year 30 BC, a series of semisses that show the head of Apollo on the obverse and on the reverse a lyre, one of his main attributes. Other possible attributions could be Orheus or Calliope but they do not seem to fit in our case. (See image no. 6).

Image no. 6.- Semis of Carteia - 8,05 gr - RPC I 115 - Private collection

The Carteia mint is very innovative, especially in its last period, not only because of the already mentioned bust with a turreted female head (unique in Hispania), but also because of the emblematic coins of the fisherman and of Neptune (RPC I 120, 121 and 122 ). This new figure of a seated Apollo would be one more example of how creative the minting of this mint is. .

The representation of Apollo seated (or standing) is not known in the coinage of the ancient Iberian Peninsula. It was a common motif in the East in earlier centuries and would be minted again in later centuries (see examples at ACSearch), but during the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD Apollo is always depicted standing, except on this curious coin of Carteia and on a rare eastern issue from Ionia (Colophon, RPC I 2523) in which we can see Apollo seated.



We see three possible hypotheses:

  • That it was a short production of semisses, perhaps interrupted for some unknown reason.

  • That it is a numismatic proof discarded for mass production.

  • Make it some kind of commemorative coinage.

Both the possible commemorative coinage and the numismatic proof seem to us to be two very imaginative hypotheses, too far-fetched. We understand, therefore, that the most plausible thing is that it is simply a coin of short production, as were the RPC I 111 and 117, of which only a few copies are known.

The formula used on the D D reverse, together with the style of the Tyche bust (see images 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D), leaves -from our point of view- no doubt about its dating between the end of the 1st century BC and early I AD.

Knowing that this is a single copy and in view of the oscillating weights of this mint, it would be very risky for us to attribute a specific order to this issue together with the other two contemporary series, that is, together with the issues of Chaves 28 and 29 (RPC I 120, 121 and 122). However, given the clear coincidence of obverses shown in images 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D, we understand that this issue could be cataloged just before or after RPC I 122 (Chaves 29). See images 7 and 8.

Image no. 7.- Semis of Carteia - 8,23 gr - RPC I 120 - Private collection
Image no. 8.- Semis of Carteia - 8,05 gr - RPC I 122 - Private collection



Assuming the coin as authentic, we find ourselves before an unpublished semis of the Carteia mint, dated between the end of the 1st century BC and early I AD. This coin could be cataloged just before or after RPC I 122 (Chaves 29).

The reverse of this coin would in turn be an unprecedented type in the numismatics of Ancient Hispania. The numismatic representations of Apollo in the ancient Iberian Peninsula are limited to simple busts, we do not know of complete figures.



We will end by thanking to:



(*) Sergio Lendines is a student of the old coinage of Baetica and especially of the mint of Carteia.

(**) Manuel Pina, lover and promoter of ancient numismatics, he is the creator and editor of this website ( .


Cádiz / Madrid (España), March 24, 2022
Sergio Lendines y Manuel Pina




In August 2023 we can see this coin cataloged in Volume I of the "Roman Provincial Coinage online" with the number RPC 122A.


We are pleased to see that our cataloging proposal was accepted. Thank you once again, Dr. Ripollès.


Last update
Cádiz / Madrid (España). August 15, 2023
Sergio Lendines y Manuel Pina




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Álvarez Burgos, F. (2008): "La moneda hispánica. Desde su orígenes hasta el siglo V". Madrid.

Arévalo González, A. et alii (2014): "El taller monetal de Carteia (San Roque, Cádiz)". Madrid.

Bravo Jiménez, S. (2021): "El Apolo de Carteia...". Almoraima No. 54, Algeciras (Cádiz).

Chaves Tristán, F. (1979): "Las monedas Hispano-Romanas de Carteia". Barcelona.

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Jiménez Salvador, J. L. (1994): "L'Apol·lo de Pinedo". Museum of Prehistory of Valencia.

Mangas Manjarrés, J. (1992): "El culto de Apolo en Hispania. Testimonios epigráficos". UCM, Madrid.

Portillo Sotelo, J. L. (2016): "Carteia, estudio de "la moneda del pescador". Revista Numismática HÉCATE N. 3, pp. 42-54.

Ripollès Alegre, P. P. et alii (1992): "Roman Provincial Coinage, Volume I". (Cited as RPC I). London-Paris.

Ripollès Alegre, P. P. (2010): "Las acuñaciones provinciales romanas de Hispania". Real Academia de la Historia. Madrid.

Saez Bolaño, J. A. y Blanco Villero, J. M. (1996): "Las monedas de la Bética romana. Volumen I Conventus gaditanus". San Fernando (Cádiz).

Villaronga Garriga, L. (1994): "Corpus Nummum Hispaniae ante Augusti Aetatem" (Vol. I y II ). Madrid.

Villaronga Garriga, L. y Benages Olivé, J. (2011): "Ancient Coinage of the Iberian Peninsula". Barcelona.

Special mention deserves the MIB project (Department of Prehistory, Archeology and Ancient History of the University of Valencia in collaboration with the Museum of Prehistory of Valencia of the Diputación de València). Iberian coinage, 2018. See Carteia mint.