Author Topic: Theta- the symbol of death  (Read 2524 times)

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Offline Victor

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Theta- the symbol of death
« on: April 06, 2015, 09:56:55 AM »
This coin is from the 9th workshop, but rather than use Θ (theta), which is Greek for nine, the engraver used delta (Greek for 4) and epsilon (Greek for 5) which add up to nine. Theta was considered by some to be the symbol of death, so it was best to avoid using it.

There are other examples of this practice, however, on some LRBís, Θ is used to denote a workshop, so perhaps there was an overly superstitious supervisor at Antioch during this period.


The second picture (courtesy of wikipedia) shows a mosaic from the Villa Borghese in which dead gladiators have a symbol (a sloppy theta) below their names to show that they are dead.



Constantine I
A.D. 327- 328
18x19mm     3.2gm
CONSTAN-TINVS AVG; head with rosette diadem.
PROVIDEN-TIAE AVGG; camp gate with two turrets and star between them, in left delta and right epsilon.
in ex. SMANTE
RIC VII Antioch 78

Offline tjaart

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Re: Theta- the symbol of death
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2015, 10:53:25 AM »
Thanks for that Victor. Very interesting. I always wondered about the delta and epsilon on some of my campgates.

Any reason they didn't use say gamma and S?

Tjaart

Offline Victor

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Re: Theta- the symbol of death
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2015, 11:06:05 AM »
Any reason they didn't use say gamma and S?

That's a good question, but I don't know why they chose delta and epsilon. Perhaps there was some symbolism associated.

Offline Genio popvli romani

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Re: Theta- the symbol of death
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2015, 12:03:10 PM »
Theta was considered by some to be the symbol of death, so it was best to avoid using it.

Probably because ThÍta is the first letter of greek Thanatos (Θάνατος/ Death) who was rarely named because of the fear that something bad would happen.
ROMA CAPVT MVNDI REGIT ORBIS FRENA ROTVNDI

Offline Alisdair

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    • Late Roman Bronze Coins - An attribution guide for poorly preserved coins
Re: Theta- the symbol of death
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2015, 07:39:35 AM »
Thanks Victor, fascinating stuff. On the other hand, the Thessalonica issues of the VRBS ROMA type often have a Theta on the wolf's shoulder. Maybe the mint officials were less suspicious in Thessalonica!

Offline Victor

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Re: Theta- the symbol of death
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2016, 09:54:22 AM »


Another example of the 9th workshop from Antioch using delta and epsilon instead of Θ (theta)



Anonymous pagan civic coinage
ca. A.D. 312
∆ quarter nummus
16mm  1.5gm
GENIO ANTIOCHENI; Statue of the Tyche of Antioch on rock, below the river god Orontes.
APOLLONI SANCTO; Apollo, stg.l. holding patera and lyre, in right field E over Δ
In ex. SMA
Mint of Antioch
Vagi 2954; Van Heesch 3a
 


On a related note, I have recently seen some of these coins with a reference from McAlee (probably copying and pasting from each other). This is the book The Coins of Roman Antioch. If you donít have it yet, donít bother getting it because you think it might have some information on these coins. It stops at Valerian and only seems to include the pagan civic coins as an afterthought and then only a few examples-- I have included a scan of the entire section below. The best reference for the pagan issue under Maximinus II is Van Heesch, Numismatic Chronicle 1993

Offline six2ten

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Re: Theta- the symbol of death
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2016, 05:10:15 AM »
Thanks for the heads up regarding the Antioch book, was one I have been considering - but not any more!

Offline Victor

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Re: Theta- the symbol of death
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2016, 07:15:04 AM »
Thanks for the heads up regarding the Antioch book, was one I have been considering - but not any more!

You're welcome...I wish I had known before I got it. It's taking up valuable space on my bookshelf.