Lyre on Coins

18 Apr 2017  Tue

Music, the sound of cosmos mimed through musical instruments from the primitive period. The ancient world indulged in the essence of music and understood the significance of its resonance. To project this tranquilizing music the western cultures had different instruments like Roman tuba, Cornu, Lyre, Cithara and harp. But today we are going to discuss about Lyre and its significance through painting, coinage, literature and iconography.

In ancient Greece, Lyre was associated with the sun god Apollo and is mostly depicted on their coins. The silver tetradrachm of Hellenistic period during reign King Antiochus IV is a good example of lyre on coins. Hermes of Greek mythology is credited with its invention. It is said that Apollo was considered a lyre player of par excellence.

The Roman monetary design features Apollo of Gaul with the Lyre. This image of bronze semis coin minted during the period of Roman Republic depicts Lyre on its reverse. The Roman imperial coinage of Augustus depicts Apollo with Lyre on Denarius coins. The earliest Celtic gold Stater derived from the Stater of Philip of Macedon also depicted Lyre in their coinage as the symbol of Apollo.

The Lyre was mostly played by men but the depiction in art, notably the clay dancer from Minoan Palaikastro shows female Lyrists (1420-1300BCE). The fresco of Akrotiri on Thera depicts Lyre played by the blue monkey. Lyre appears on Greek pottery from 8th century BCE.

Here are some interesting facts:
• The Lyre was commonly depicted on Armorica coinage during the Celtic period in England. It was a unique attribute of their coinage.
• The depiction of Apollo with Lyre is associated with healing springs on coins, the notion corresponds with the belief that Apollo averts illness.
• The Greek city-state portrays tortoise shell Lyre on the reverse of their coins.

To know more about Greek coinage click here.

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