Object of the Week: A Tiny but Superb Roman Bronze Coin of Theodosius I

Clio’s featured object this week is a very small and inexpensive bronze coin dating from Late Antiquity; specifically the reign of Theodosius I (sometimes referred to as Theodosius the Great). The coin is in remarkably good condition with very clear imagery and text.

Before examining the context and significance of this coin, let’s review the details of the object itself. The obverse features a rather stylized pearl diademed, draped and cuirassed bust of Theodosius facing right, with a fairly standard Latin inscription: DN THEODO-SIVS PF AV is an abbreviated form of “Our Lord Theodosius, the dutiful, the fortunate, Augustus.”  The reverse features a winged figure of Victory advancing left, a military trophy over one shoulder, dragging a captive behind her, with another fairly standard late Roman Latin inscription: SALVS REI-PVBLICAE, roughly meaning “Health of the Republic.” In the left field is the early Christian symbol comprised of the Greek letters Chi and Rho, a monogram for Christ. A mintmark, beneath the ground line, shows the coin was struck at the Antioch mint. Antioch was capitol of the Roman province of Syria and is today in the territory  of Turkey.  The coin measures just 14 mm and weighs a mere 1.35 grams. Its pinkish color is sometimes referred to as a desert patina, indicating burial in dry soil with a high iron content.


The Emperor in whose name this coin was struck was certainly one of the most determined and forceful men of action in Roman history. He could be diplomatic and conciliatory one day, brutal and unforgiving the next. Theodosius came to power following the disastrous defeat of a large Roman field army at the hands of a combined force of Visigoths and Alans, in the Province of Thrace in 378 AD. The Emperor Valens, along with two thirds of his army, perished, leaving only Gratian ruling in the West. Needing a co-ruler, he selected an officer from the province of Iberia (Spain), Flavius Theodosius, to rule in the East and deal with the Goths who were now marauding virtually unchecked through the Balkans.

Once in power, Theodosius decisively defeated two usurpers in the west and, after a grinding four year war with the Goths and their allies, came to a peace agreement that allowed them to settle within the Empire, provided they served as military allies when called. But he is perhaps best known to history for having made the final break with Rome’s ancient “pagan” religious past. In 391 he issued an edict forbidding pagan worship and closing all pagan temples. The dynastic line he founded would come to an end about fifty years later, marking the final split between the rapidly dissolving Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire, known to us today as the Byzantine Empire.

For an excellent study of this important Roman Emperor, as well as a thoughtful examination of the Battle of Hadrianopolis and its long term implications for the Western Roman Empire, we recommend the following work: Theodosius: The Empire at Bay by Gerard Friell and Stephen Williams, 1995, Yale University Press.

For those interested  acquiring this coin, it may be found on our Etsy site, here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/265233500/roman-empire-bronze-ae-4-of-theodosius-i?ref=shop_home_active_16  and on our eBay site here: http://m.ebay.com/itm/Roman-Empire-Bronze-AE-4-of-Theodosius-I-AD-383-392-Extremely-Fine-/131843167047?nav=SELLING_ACTIVE


This Week’s Featured Object: A Framed Coptic Egyptian Textile 5th – 7th Century AD


This large and impressive textile, our Object of the Week, is a fragment from a Coptic Egyptian garment and features complex geometric and foliate designs. Thanks to exceptionally dry conditions, many types of artifacts made from perishable materials that would not survive elsewhere are common finds on Egyptian archaeological sites. Between the late 18th and early 20th Century great numbers of ancient Egyptian textile fragments from all periods were retrieved by local Egyptian treasure hunters and artifacts dealers for sale to foreign visitors, by foreigners conducting their own ad-hoc “excavations” and by archaeologists, often excavating using methods that would by today’s standards be considered little more than treasure hunting.

While textiles of all types, from the most humble garments to the most elaborate, and from every period of Egypt’s long history have been preserved in the dry environment, Coptic textiles are a class unto themselves. In common parlance, use of the term “Coptic” here refers both to the time period from which these textiles date – corresponding to the roughly 300 year period of Byzantine rule in Egypt – and the Christian culture that created them, as the Coptic Church, still very much alive today in Egypt, gives its name to both the ancient and modern Coptic culture. This uniquely Coptic textile style continued on in Egypt long after the Islamic conquest of the 7th Century AD.

Many Coptic textile fragments, and in some cases entire garments, have since found their way into museum collections. This has somewhat reduced the number of high quality examples available on the legitimate art market. But many fine examples can be acquired from the major London and New York auction houses and reputable antiquities dealers in Europe and the North America.

This example is tapestry woven in black (now appearing purple) with red details on a cream ground, with two parallel strips of mostly foliate and geometric patterning, including remains of a few figural elements contained in lozenges. The fragment has been professionally mounted on a linen backing and very neatly framed and is suitable for hanging. It was acquired on the Swedish art market in December, 2009 and was formerly in a late 19th – early 20th Century Cairo collection. It dates from the 5th to 7th Century AD, and has the following dimensions: 27.9 x 17.8 cm (11 x 7 in.); 17 x 13.5 inches with the frame   For related examples, see the Rietz Collection of Coptic textiles in the California Academy of Sciences, online catalog numbers CAS 0389-2421 and CAS 0389-2416.

CA-12-228 - Copy

For those interested in acquiring this object, you may do so on our Etsy site here – https://www.etsy.com/listing/262372123/framed-coptic-egyptian-textile-fragment

Or our eBay store here – http://www.ebay.com/itm/Framed-Coptic-Egyptian-Textile-Fragment-5th-7th-Century-AD-/131828190208?hash=item1eb1928c00:g:jSEAAOSwnDZT83cC

There are excellent print and online resources for the student or collector of ancient Coptic textiles.  The Coptic Tapestry Albums & The Archaeologist of Antinoe, Albert Gayet  by Nancy Arthur Hoskins, is a very accessible, lavishly color illustrated guide to the collection amassed by the controversial French psuedo-archaeologist Albert Gayet in the late 19th Century. It describes Coptic textile production techniques as well as offering insight into how collections of these objects were built in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Online, in addition to the Rietz Collection mentioned above, we recommend the Indiana University Museum’s small but excellent online collections – http://www.iub.edu/~iuam/online_modules/coptic/cophome.html.

Object of the Week: A Roman Glass Unguentarium

Our object of the week is an intact Roman glass toilet bottle, usually called an unguentarium. This name seems to be a 19th Century invention, based on the ancient Roman term “unguentarius,” a word used to describe sellers of perfumes. This type of glass vessel is believed to have been used for dispensing perfumed oils for both daily and ritual use. The actual Roman name for this type of vessel is unknown, despite the form being relatively common.



Our example is structurally intact. The vessel consists of a long bag shaped body, wider and rounded towards the bottom, with a tall narrow neck that widens to a rim that has been thickened by folding it back over itself. Around the body is a thin trail of glass, applied while molten, making seven full revolutions around the vessel, starting from just above the base and ending at the rim. A pair of chunky handles are attached very thickly to the midpoint of the vessel, are pulled outward and meet it just below the rim. Much of this decorative trailing is still intact. There is some encrusted reddish soil inside the vessel and in recessed areas of the exterior, obscuring the vessel’s original color. The original glass color, which is a transparent green-blue, may be seen clearly at the top of the vessel in the first image above. The vessel sits on a thick, round pad base. When the glass worker was attaching the completed vessel to this base he did so slightly off-center, which may also be seen most clearly in the first of two photographs above.

Unguentaria were first made popular in the Hellenistic period but these were mainly of pottery. Many of these have survived, making them rather inexpensive today, and a few are available on our eBay and Etsy stores. While the pottery types continued into the Roman period, it was the development of glass blowing, making glass a common and affordable commodity rather then the preserve of the wealthy, that made our vessel possible. Blown glass unguentaria have survived in countless forms. The Corning Museum of Glass’ printed and online catalogs of unguentaria list dozens of distinct variations, though few have the twin handles of our example until the middle and late Roman period. Our example was made in the Eastern Mediterranean, probably in the coastal region of what is now Israel/Palestine and Lebanon This form continued on and developed in new directions during the early Byzantine period in the Near East and changed again with the advent of Islamic rule in the region.

This vessel was part of a large collection of antiquities formed by a Welsh collector between the 1970s and 2008, drawn from the UK and European art markets. The collection was dispersed at auction by Bonhams, London, Sale #16777, 29 April, 2009. this object was part of Lot # 302.

For those interested in purchasing this item, you may find it here —

Our Etsy store (opens in a new tab or window) – https://www.etsy.com/listing/261567267/roman-glass-unguentarium-late-3rd-4th?ref=shop_home_active_8

Our eBay store (opens in a new tab or window) – http://www.ebay.com/itm/Roman-Glass-Tubular-Vessel-with-Trailing-4th-5th-Century-AD-/131818636485?hash=item1eb100c4c5:g:SdoAAOSw6BtVU2zy

To learn more about unguentaria and ancient Roman glass in general, we recommend the following printed and web resources —

  1. E. Marianne Stern, “Roman, Byzantine and Early Medieval Glass, 10 BCE-700 CE” Ernesto Wolf Collection, 2001.
  2. Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, Volumes I and II, Corning Museum of Glass, 1997 and 2001, respectively

Because these printed resources are quite expensive, we also recommend online research. The Corning Museum of Glass has a tremendous online collection of ancient glass, especially Roman. A simple search for the word “Ancient” with an image brought up 4,644 results (new tab or window) – http://www.cmog.org/collection/search?f[0]=bs_has_image%3A1&f[1]=im_field_object_work_type%3A299021&solrsort=

Also useful is this exploration of Roman glass from the University of Pennsylvania Museum (new tab or window) – http://www.penn.museum/sites/Roman%20Glass/index.html

Clio Ancient Art Makes a Bold Move

As dealers in the antiquities trade go, we’ve never been very conventional here at Clio. In keeping with that reputation, we’re making a dramatic move away from our long established website and offering customers access to our stock of antiquities, ancient coins, books and more through a range of e-commerce platforms.

E-commerce changed dramatically the last few years. We noted the move away from conventional transactions over a relatively static website and towards selling platforms like eBay, Etsy and Shopify. Many merchants in all sorts of industries noticed it, too. Our own sales reports made it clear that to keep up with the changing nature of online sales we needed to offer antiquities and ancient coins through a range of sites.

Now you and other customers worldwide may find Clio Ancient Art at the following locations –

Find us on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/usr/clioantiquities

Find us on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClioAncientArt

Find us on WordPress: https://clioantiquities.wordpress.com/

Find us on Shopify / Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClioAntiquities/

Each of these platforms serves a slightly different type of clientele but collectively they reach countless millions of customers, including most of our established clients. Released of the burden of a time consuming and costly website with cookie cutter service, we can focus on targeted and expanding sales through a variety of platforms offering increasingly sophisticated analytics. This can only mean better greater flexibility for our clients

Our old website will quietly vanish over the next few days. Over the next couple of months we’ll be upgrading and monetizing our long established blog on WordPress. Our shops on eBay, Etsy and Facebook / Shopify will be regularly offering specials and a rotating mix of quality antiquities, ancient coins and print resources. We hope you’ll take the time to visit them all and find the one you like best.

Thank you again for your time and your support over the past 7 years. We look forward to hearing from you again soon.

With best wishes,


Chris M. Maupin

Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities

PO Box 7714

Wilmington, NC 28406

Phone: 704-293-3411

Find us on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/usr/clioantiquities

Find us on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClioAncientArt

Find us on WordPress: https://clioantiquities.wordpress.com/

Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClioAntiquities/



Customers. Friends and Fans:

We have updated the Clio Ancient Art with some very fine Egyptian, Hellenistic and Roman antiquities in faience, bronze, glass and ceramic, as well as Roman, Byzantine and medieval coins. The Egyptian and Hellenistic items in particular have an exceptional provenance. Here they are with links to each item –

Thank you for visiting our site. We can also be found on Etsy, Ebay and on Shopify via our Facebook page.

Best wishes,

Chris M. Maupin

Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities

Getty Villa, Antiquities, Museums, Ancient Art

Getty Villa Plans to Expand Focus Beyond Ancient Greece and Rome

In an interview published November 3 for THE ART NEWSPAPER web edition, J. Paul Getty Museum director Timothy Potts reveals plans for the Getty Villa to redisplay its exhibits and expands its focus to include broader Mediterranean cultures formative to and related to ancient Greece and Rome including making new acquisitions. Visitors may need to wait up to one year before the physical changes begin. In this writer’s view, it is a sensible move and should make a visit to the Getty Villa, a pleasure at any time, all the more satisfying. Here is a link to the web article: http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Getty-plans-to-redisplay-the-Getty-Villa/36227 A more complete version of the article is available in their print edition.

Temple of Portunas, Piazza della Bocca della Verita, Roman antiquities

The Aventine Hill: One of Rome’s Lesser Known Treasures

When in Rome, most visitors focus on major tourist itinerary monuments clustered in and around the Capitolium, Forum and Palatine. Yet many Roman neighborhoods are home to very important monuments of the ancient past and it can be well worth the effort to get off the beaten path to visit these. This writer’s favorite such neighborhood is the Aventine Hill, located along the eastern bank of the Tiber. It is the southernmost of Rome’s famed Seven Hills.
Compared to the frenzy and traffic found in much of the central City, the Aventine is a relative island of calm. Most of the area is residential, with several large green open spaces, and it is connected to the equally quiet Trastevere neighborhood across the Tiber by two bridges. Getting there is easy, with major transit stops at Circo Massimo and Bocca della Verita. Alternately, one may take a long leisurely stroll along the Tiber from central Rome, starting where the Ponte Fabricio connects to the Tiber Island.
Most of the neighborhood’s major monuments, and those with the most charm in this writer’s view, are to be found in a small area centered on the Piazza della Bocca della Verita. This Piazza is so named for the famous “Mouth of Truth” located inside the portico of the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, which has foundations going back to the 6th Century. According to a many centuries old tradition, the visitor would insert their hand in the mouth and the mouth would snap shut if the visitor had told lies. The Mouth was made all the more famous by a scene in the 1953 film ‘Roman Holiday” with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. In fact, this huge white marble disc with the face of a river god may simply have been a large drain cover during the Roman imperial period.
ClioAncientArtBocca della Verita, Portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Roma

Bocca della Verita, Portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Just around the corner is the Arch of Janus. Dating from the first half of the fourth century, probably during the reign of Constantine the Great or one of his sons, the Arch today is almost completely stripped of its original decorative elements, giving it a strangely stark and modern look. It is an imposing structure, just the same.
Arch of Janus, Roman antiquities, Aventine Hill, ancient Romw

Arch of Janus

Alongside the Tiber, just a couple of hundred steps away from the Arch of Janus, shaded by umbrella pines, are the temples of the Forum Boarium. These two small temples are famed for both their remarkable state of preservation and for being almost unique in the repertoire of Roman architecture as survivors from the Roman Republic. Both buildings date from the 2nd Century BC. The more conventional of the two is the Temple of Portunus, dedicated to the god of rivers and ports, as there were once docks and related facilities here for the unloading of goods coming up the Tiber. Set on a high podium, the harmonious facade features simple lines and beautiful Ionic columns. The more unusual of the two, due to its circular format, may have been dedicated to Hercules and features elaborate Corinthian column capitals.
Temple of Portunas, Piazza della Bocca della Verita, Roman antiquities

Temple of Portunas, Piazza della Bocca della Verita

Temple of Portunas, Piazza della Bocca della Verita, Roman antiquities

Detail, Portico of the Temple of Portunas, Piazza della Bocca della Verita

Temple of Hercules, Piazza della Bocca della Verita, Rome

So-called Temple of Hercules, Piazza della Bocca della Verita

Among the many churches with ancient foundations in this area, one stands out – San Giorgio in Velabro. Dating mainly to the 7th Century and incorporating many ancient Roman columns, along with a Roman “mini-arch” of the Severan period, a charming 12th Century bell tower and 13th Century frescoes in the apse, the church also incorporates numerous inscribed ancient fragments in its portico and in the walls of the nave itself. This building is a sort of palimpset of Rome itself and is well worth a visit.
Late Roman Funerary Inscriptions, San Giorgio in Velabro, Roman antiquities

Late Roman Funerary Inscriptions Embedded in Walls of the Portico, San Giorgio in Velabro

While there is much more to see in this small area, one more spot at the southernmost end of the Aventine is also worth visiting. Very close to the Pirimide Metro station is the Pyramid of Gaius Cestius. This is actually a tomb constructed for a Roman official of the same name who died in 30 BC. This was the time when Egypt had come under Roman control with the death of Cleopatra VII and “Egyptomania” was all the rage in high end Roman artistic circles – some things never change! Unlike the true Egyptian pyramids of over 2,000 years earlier, this structure was built of concrete encased in white marble. In the late 3rd Century AD it was incorporated in the Roman defensive walls completed by Aurelian.
Pyramid of Gaius Cestius, Aurelian Walls, Porta San Paolo

Pyramid of Gaius Cestius on the Aurelian Walls at Porta San Paolo

Just across the street from the Pyramid – and watch out for the traffic here – there is an island of peace at the Protestant Cemetery, so called because during the many centuries of Papal rule non-Catholics could not be buried inside the walls of Rome, the same walls built by Aurelian. Here one finds the final resting place of many famous visitors to the Eternal City, including the great English romantic and poets and lovers of antiquity, Percy Shelley and John Keats.
This post is a slightly expanded version of a “Travelogue” from the Clio Ancient Art website http://www.clioancientart.com/index.html
If you found this post useful or interesting, please let us know and we will post additional stories about travel to Rome and other ancient sites.
Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Assyrian Art and the “Repatriation” of Antiquities

In April of 2013 I published on this blog a photo essay highlighting some of the many Assyrian antiquities in The British Museum (here is the link: https://clioantiquities.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/a-sampler-of-ancient-assyrian-art-at-the-british-museum/ ). Little could anyone have known at the time that a gang of fanatics and thugs, referred to now under the English language acronyms ISIS or ISIL, would take control of swaths of Syria and Iraq that include the ancient Assyrian heartland. Reports are sketchy but it is clear that in addition to Christian and Yazidi monuments and art works and those of other Islamic sects ISIL finds objectionable, ancient Assyrian, Neo-Hittite, Roman and Byzantine monuments and antiquities have been destroyed. This has occurred both in-situ and in museums.

Those who call for blindly repatriating ancient works of art from western museums to their source countries in the name of some form of political or cultural correctness should consider the fate not only of ancient Assyrian art in Iraq and Syria but also ancient works in many other conflict zones around the world. Attacking collectors, auction houses and art dealers, the overwhelming majority of whom are ethical and do not traffic in looted material, is an absurd gesture that utterly fails to address the root causes of looting and destruction. In the long term, many legally acquired antiquities circulating on the market today will find their way into public museum collections. Great museums in stable nations provide a venue for visitors from all over the world to see these works, which are mankind’s cultural legacy, not just those of a single modern nation state with artificially drawn borders whose modern populations have, in many cases, little or nothing to do with those that created the ancient works they have inherited.

With so much ancient Assyrian art now at risk, I would like to expand upon that original blog post and share more images of the British Museum’s Assyrian collections (and one image from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford) and more textual detail on the previously published images. All images should be credited to Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities. For those wishing to see Assyrian art at locations other than The British Museum, I recommend visiting The Louvre in Paris, The Vatican Museums in Rome, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. On the US west coast, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco also have some examples on view.

Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Glazed terracotta tile. Nimrud. 875-850 BC. An Assyrian king, holding a cup in one hand and bow in the other, is accompanied by his bodyguard. This is a ceremonial image intended to show the king as both warrior and hunter.

Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Assyrian winged male protective spirit from the Northwest Palace at Nimrud (modern Iraq), Room Z, Panel 8. 865-860 BC, reign of Ashurnasirpal II

Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Eagle headed protective spirit from the Temple of Ninurta at Nimrud. 865-860 BC. He carried a pale of holy water and a pine cone with which to sprinkle the water in a gesture of purification, rather like holy water used in some modern Christian denominations.

Assyrian antiquities, Assyrian art, Clio Ancient Art

Arab prisoners brought before King Tiglath-pilesser III, relief from the Central Palace at Nimrud, about 728 BC

Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Captured flocks of sheep and goats, taken during Tiglath-pilesser III’s campaign against the Arabs, are driven back to the Assyrian camp. From the Central Palace, Nimrud, about 728 BC.

Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Stela of King Shamshi-Adad V, 824-811 BC. It depicts the king before symbols of his principal gods. He extends his right hand, with the forefinger outstretched, an Assyrian gesture of respect and supplication towards the gods. The gods could be worshipped in symbolic form and here are, from top to bottom, Ashur, Shamash, Sin, Adad and Ishtar. The king wears a large symbol resembling a Maltese cross on his chest, another symbol of the god Shamash.

Assyrian Art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

Partial reconstruction of the Balawat Gates. Erected by King Shalmaneser III at his new palace at Balawat between 858 and 824 BC. The gates were constructed of wood with bronze reinforcing strips. Only the bronze strips have survived. They showed scenes of conquest and tribute with Cuneiform captions.

Assyrian antiquities, Assyrian art, Clio Ancient Art

Remarkable scene of the Assyrian assault on a fortified city. This relief, from Nimrud and dating to 865-860 BC, depicts a remarkable armored tank-like siege machine on wheels, using what appears to be a metal tipped wedge or ram to work loose the blocks in the city wall. Assyrian archers are shown in their characteristic formation of pairs, with one man using a shield to prove cover while another lets loose his arrow.


A pair of winged human headed bulls from the NW Palace at Nimrud, 865-860 BC. These guarded what may have been the entrance to the King’s private apartments.


Detail of one of the winged human headed bulls described above.


Ashurnasirpal in his chariot, aiming an arrow at a lion while his attendants fend off a lion behind. This and the next image, the famed “Dying Lioness”, are part of a lengthy series of panels showing wild animal hunts from the North Palace at Ninevah, 668-627 BC. Lions were common in the Near and Middle East at this time and hunting them, and other animals considered fierce and powerful, was part of a long tradition in region to display the King’s prowess, bravery and skill.

Assyrian antiquities, Assyrian art, Clio Ancient Art

This poignant image has come to be known as “The Dying Lioness”. It is part of the animal hunt sequence from the North Palace at Ninevah, 668-627 BC. The lioness has been partly paralyzed by arrows in her hind quarters and drags herself forward to snarl at her attackers.

Assyrian art, Assyrian antiquities, Clio Ancient Art

In another scene from the Nineveh animal hunt panels, deer are trapped by herding them into a high net enclosure. As no weapons are depicted here, the animals may have been intended for a private zoo or park on the royal estates.

Assyrian art, Assyrian sculpture, Ashurnasirpal, Nimrud, Ashmolean Museum

Assyrian winged genius from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal (883-859 BC) at Nimrud. Acquired through excavation by A.H. Layard in the early 19th Century. Now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

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News Item: Egyptian Mummification Seems to Have Started 1,500 Years Earlier then Previously Thought