Juno Moneta's Blog

10 May 2015

Astronomical Symbols on Ancient and Medieval Coins (Book Review)

Library | Juno Moneta

You see them quite often on coins if you collect these types. However, the references are clueless as to what star and moon devices actually mean, with rare exception. It turns out that understanding these symbols can actually help date the coins more precisely. The book is full of illustrations and charts explaining astronomical events and the associated coins. The most well known examples are the stars on the coins of Roman Republic featuring Julius Caesar. The technique, despite the fact that there were no coins of that time celebrating the event, has been used to help establish the date of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth to 4 B.C.E.

The book is paper, medium large format and contain 225 pages. Author is Marshall Faintich and was originally published in 2008, with an update in 2012. It also contains a chart of revised dating for the silver Pennies of William I & II of England. A related discussion is the comet that appears on the Bayeux tapestry that foretold the demise of Harold and the victory of William I (1066 CE).

The coin:
A classic required for every historical collection - a nice silver penny of William I, (The Conqueror) from Normandy who displaced Harold II in 1066. William struck coins from 1066 to 1087. This one was struck in Canterbury (?) and is known as a PAXS type (VIII), obverse: crowned facing bust with sceptre, crown type 1, breaking linear circle at bottom, legend commences lower left "+PILLELM REX". This one features a nice bold full face portrait. Can anyone provide a complete attribution for this particular example? Any help will be deeply appreciated!



Level 5

Love to hear!


Level 6

As an amateur astronomer, I enjoyed this.

Greco Roman

Level 3

We have to be very, very careful when assigning terms to symbols on coins, especially ancient coins. By the time coinage started most of these symbols are already 2- 3,000 years old! Crescent moon, star and sun symbols were most exclusively always shown together. The sun with radiant rays, a star, as star shape and the crescent moon. The crescent moon cult is one that has lasted the longest...I want to say from around 2,000 BC to around 1000 AD in Harran/Carrhae. This interesting fact here is that the Assyrian/Babylonian triad has the Moon (Nana/Su'en) as the father and Sun (Ute/Shamash) as the son and star (Inanna/Ishtar) the daughter. The moon is the head god as it was the easiest to measure, provided light during the night and marked the cycle of "conception". Here's a link to my presentation. Granted this isn't a book written by a doctorate author. It's just simple research. Sometimes I think we want to start with a solution and then work backwards to solve a problem that "proves" the solution. http://media.wix.com/ugd/e7a338_29f19fb6236f4ccaa8e6bdfa6588a1dc.pdf


Level 5

Thanks for sharing!


Level 5

Thanks for sharing Juno.


Level 5

Thank you very much for this info - I didn't even know this book existed!

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