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Quiz about Famous Ancient Coins
Quiz about Famous Ancient Coins

Famous Ancient Coins Trivia Quiz


This quiz requires some specialized knowledge of ancient coins and history. Some coins have become famous among collectors, either for their rarity, their attractive designs, or for some historical significance. How many can you identify?

A multiple-choice quiz by daver852. Estimated time: 5 mins.
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Author
daver852
Time
5 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
374,887
Updated
Dec 03 21
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Average
Avg Score
7 / 10
Plays
254
Last 3 plays: Guest 80 (8/10), Guest 84 (2/10), Guest 206 (4/10).
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Question 1 of 10
1. In ancient times, each Greek city-state had its own unique design that served to identify the coinage of that city. For example, Ephesus used a honeybee, and Corinth used the flying horse, Pegasus. Which city used an owl on its coins? Hint


Question 2 of 10
2. In 42 BC, the Roman moneyer Lucius Plaetorius Cestianus struck a silver coin called a denarius, which showed a bust of Marcus Junius Brutus on one side, and two daggers and a "liberty cap" on the other. What famous event did this coin commemorate? Hint


Question 3 of 10
3. Another famous Roman coin shows a Roman war galley on one side, and a Roman "Eagle" between two standards on the other. There is an inscription that reads "ANT AVG III VIR R P C." Who is is responsible for producing these famous coins? Hint


Question 4 of 10
4. There is a silver denarius of the emperor Tiberius, with his portrait on the obverse, and his mother, Livia, seated on the reverse, with the inscription, "Pontif Maxim." Many people believe that this is the coin that Jesus held up when he uttered the famous words, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." What do collectors call this coin? Hint


Question 5 of 10
5. Lepta and prutahs were very small bronze coins issued by Jewish kings and Roman governors of Judea from the second century BC through the second century AD. By what name are these coins better known? Hint


Question 6 of 10
6. Alexander the Great was the first living person to have his portrait appear on a coin.


Question 7 of 10
7. Europeans were not the only people making and using coins in the ancient world. Around 260 BC the Chinese began producing round metal coins with a round or square hole in the middle, a form of coinage that continued for over 2000 years, and sounds like a word that is synonymous with money. What are these coins collectively called? Hint


Question 8 of 10
8. Constantine the Great is famous for being the first Roman emperor to recognize Christianity - whether he himself ever became a Christian is still subject to debate. But it is on a coin of his that we find the first Christian symbol on a Roman coin. It wasn't a cross, however. What was it? Hint


Question 9 of 10
9. The figure of Britannia, which appeared at various times on British pennies and halfpennies from 1672 until decimalization, was copied from an ancient Roman coin.


Question 10 of 10
10. Near the end of his reign in 363 AD, the Roman emperor Julian II issued a large bronze coin called a double majorina. The reverse of the coin showed a bull with two stars over it, and the legend "Securitas Repub" (the security of the republic). What is the significance of this coin? Hint



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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. In ancient times, each Greek city-state had its own unique design that served to identify the coinage of that city. For example, Ephesus used a honeybee, and Corinth used the flying horse, Pegasus. Which city used an owl on its coins?

Answer: Athens

Athena was the patron goddess of Athens, and she was usually accompanied by an owl. Classic ancient coins of Athens show a portrait of Athena on one side, and her owl on the other, usually with a sprig of olive - the production of olive oil was an important area of the Athenian economy.

The coins of Athens were prized by traders in ancient times because of their consistent weight and high silver content. Especially sought after by collectors is the Athenian tetradrachm (four drachm) silver coin.

It is so famous that is often just called an "Owl." These coins are not rare at all, but their historical importance and appealing design makes them very popular among collectors, so their price is relatively high. It is not uncommon to find Owls defaced by deep cuts; these were made in ancient times by merchants to verify that the coin was solid silver, and not a silver-plated counterfeit!
2. In 42 BC, the Roman moneyer Lucius Plaetorius Cestianus struck a silver coin called a denarius, which showed a bust of Marcus Junius Brutus on one side, and two daggers and a "liberty cap" on the other. What famous event did this coin commemorate?

Answer: The assassination of Julius Caesar

The Romans loved to use their coins as a propaganda medium. If there remained any doubt what this coin is meant to represent, the words "EID MAR" (the Ides of March) appear below the daggers on the reverse side of the coin. These coins must have been minted in large quantities, but are very rare today, probably because the first emperor, Augustus, ordered them removed from circulation and melted down.

This is among the most famous of all Roman coins, and nice examples frequently fetch very high prices at auction.
3. Another famous Roman coin shows a Roman war galley on one side, and a Roman "Eagle" between two standards on the other. There is an inscription that reads "ANT AVG III VIR R P C." Who is is responsible for producing these famous coins?

Answer: Marc Antony

The inscription stands for "Antonius Augurus Triumvir Rei Publicae Constituendae," and refers to Marc Anthony's status as a member of Rome's "Second Triumvirate." What makes these coins so famous is that they were minted by Marc Anthony to pay his troops before the Battle of Actium, where he and his lover, Cleopatra, were defeated by Augustus and his son-in-law, Agrippa. Each coin has the number of the legion it was minted for on the reverse side of the coin. Huge quantities of these coins were minted, and they remained in circulation for centuries, sometimes turning up in hoards of coins dating from the 4th century AD. Unlike most famous ancient coins, these remain affordable for most collectors due to the large numbers that have survived.
4. There is a silver denarius of the emperor Tiberius, with his portrait on the obverse, and his mother, Livia, seated on the reverse, with the inscription, "Pontif Maxim." Many people believe that this is the coin that Jesus held up when he uttered the famous words, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." What do collectors call this coin?

Answer: Tribute penny

How this particular coin came to be identified as the coin held by Jesus during the episode related in Mark 12: 15-17 is very complicated. We know because of the Greek word used to describe the coin that it was a Roman denarius. Tiberius was the emperor, or Caesar, at the time Jesus said these words, and archaeological evidence shows that this was the most common denarius of Tiberius in circulation at the time Jesus said these words.

Other coins have been proposed, but the vast majority of scholars agree that this particular denarius was probably the type Jesus held up when he made his famous speech.

This coin is a very common one, and gets most of its collector value from the historical associations that come with it. Nice specimens can still be bought for a few hundred dollars, and there is a chance - albeit a very small one - that you might purchase the very coin that Jesus once held between his fingers!
5. Lepta and prutahs were very small bronze coins issued by Jewish kings and Roman governors of Judea from the second century BC through the second century AD. By what name are these coins better known?

Answer: Widow's mites

The story of the poor widow is told in the New Testament in Mark 12:41-44: "And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living." The same story is told in the Gospel of Luke.

The "farthing" Mark is speaking about is the Roman coin called a quadrans, the smallest denomination produced by the mint at Rome. Both the lepton and the prutah were very small bronze coins, and both are known as "widow's mites." It took two lepta to equal one prutah; some lepta are not much bigger than a pencil eraser. Both types of coins were usually very crudely manufactured; it is rare to find one that is perfectly round and not missing some of the design or inscriptions. They are very common - millions have survived - and are often made into jewelry as a souvenir of a visit to the Holy Land. They were not used outside of Judea, being a strictly local coinage.

It is interesting to note that Pontius Pilate struck prutahs during his term as prefect or governor of Judea, in 29-31 AD. These coins are dated using the years of the emperor Tiberius' reign. Those with the letters "LIZ" on them were minted in Jerusalem in 30 AD, the year that Jesus is believed to have been crucified. Naturally, these coins have a great deal of interest to collectors, and sell for more than other "widow's mites," but decent specimens can still be purchased on eBay and and from coin dealers at fairly modest prices. You should be careful when buying one, however, since some unscrupulous dealers advertise them as rare, and there are also many counterfeit coins in the marketplace.
6. Alexander the Great was the first living person to have his portrait appear on a coin.

Answer: False

I am not sure where this piece of misinformation got started, but it is certainly not true. The first living person to have his portrait on a coin was a Persian satrap named Tissaphernes, in 412 BC, almost 80 years before Alexander the Great was born. Alexander ruled a vast empire, and thousands of different types of coins were minted during his lifetime, many having on them a portrait of the god Hercules. Scholars still debate whether or not the features of Hercules on these coins were modeled after Alexander the Great or not. Alexander's successors had no qualms about placing their portraits on their coins, an honor previously reserved mostly for gods and ancient heroes.
7. Europeans were not the only people making and using coins in the ancient world. Around 260 BC the Chinese began producing round metal coins with a round or square hole in the middle, a form of coinage that continued for over 2000 years, and sounds like a word that is synonymous with money. What are these coins collectively called?

Answer: Cash

The Chinese actually called these coins "wen" up until about 1900. The word cash seems to be derived from an Indian word, "karsa." European traders called the Chinese coins "cash," and the name stuck. There were some difference between these cash coins and European coins. For one thing, instead of being struck, Chinese cash coins were cast in molds. Also, although copper or bronze was the alloy most often used to make them, they were sometimes made of iron, lead, or tin. Each individual coin was worth very little, so they were usually strung together (hence the need for the hole). One thousand of these coins were equal in value to one tael of silver - about 1.3 ounces, or 40 grams.

A string of cash coins weighed up to ten pounds, so they were difficult to transport.

This led to the Chinese inventing paper money. Cash continued to be made well into the 20th century. Because millions upon millions of these coins were made, even very old Chinese cash specimens can often be purchased for only a few dollars, but you must deal with a reputable dealer as counterfeit coins abound.

There are also rare varieties, of course.
8. Constantine the Great is famous for being the first Roman emperor to recognize Christianity - whether he himself ever became a Christian is still subject to debate. But it is on a coin of his that we find the first Christian symbol on a Roman coin. It wasn't a cross, however. What was it?

Answer: A Chi-Rho symbol

A Chi-Rho symbol looks like a capital "P" with an "X" superimposed on the stem of the "P." This comes from the Greek word for Christ, which is "ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ." This symbol was also used earlier as an abbreviation for "chrēston," which means "good."

Around 330 AD, Constantine issued a series of small bronze coins bearing his portrait on one side, and two Roman soldiers standing on either side of one or two military standards, with the inscription "Gloria Exercitus," which means "The Glory of the Army." A few of these coins show the standard or standards topped with a tiny "Chi-Rho" symbol. This design was continued by Constantine's sons (Constantine II, Constans, and Constantius II), and this coin is one of the most common of all ancient Roman coins, even nice examples selling for only a few dollars. The first Roman coin to show a cross was a tiny bronze coin of Theodosius II (402 - 450 AD).
9. The figure of Britannia, which appeared at various times on British pennies and halfpennies from 1672 until decimalization, was copied from an ancient Roman coin.

Answer: True

In 143 AD, the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius issued a large bronze coin called a sestertius that showed the province of Britain personified as a woman sitting on a rock, and holding a spear and shield. The inscription, "BRITANNIA," left no doubt who this figure was supposed to represent. Over 1500 years later, the English mint decided to stop making tiny silver halfpenny coins, and instead mint farthings and halfpennies out of copper. For the reverse, they copied the design of the earlier Roman coin.

This design continued to be used for hundreds of years, on the farthing and halfpenny until 1937, and on the penny until the final predecimal coins were struck in 1967. It even appeared on the new 50p coin until 2008. The original coins of Antoninus Pius are very rare, and are also very popular because of their historical interest, making them quite expensive when they come on the market.
10. Near the end of his reign in 363 AD, the Roman emperor Julian II issued a large bronze coin called a double majorina. The reverse of the coin showed a bull with two stars over it, and the legend "Securitas Repub" (the security of the republic). What is the significance of this coin?

Answer: Last Roman coin with a pagan image

Julian II was an interesting character. He was a nephew of Constantine the Great, and had been raised a Christian, but later converted to paganism. He had no desire to be an emperor; he was studying philosophy in Greece when his cousin, Constantius II, ordered him to take charge of the western provinces of the Empire. Although he had no training, Julian proved to be an extraordinarily capable military leader, and was so popular with his troops that in 360 AD they declared him emperor. Before he could face his cousin on the battlefield, Constantius II died of natural causes, and Julian was left sole ruler of the Roman Empire. He was killed in battle against the Persians on June 26, 363.

This coin is believed to show an Apis bull. An Apis bull was regarded by the Egyptians to be an earthly manifestation of the god Ptah. It had a white triangle upon its forehead, a white vulture wing outline on its back, a scarab mark under its tongue, a white crescent moon shape on its right flank, and double hairs on its tail. Whenever a bull with these markings was born in Egypt, it was worshiped as a living god, and, when it died, its body was mummified and buried with great ceremony. An Apis bull is known to have been born in Egypt very near the time this coin was first issued, so it probably commemorates that event. This means that it is the last coin of the Roman Empire to incorporate a pagan symbol in its design, except for Nike, the personification of victory, which had already lost most of its pagan connotations. Since Julian was the last pagan emperor, there were no more coins issued with pagan gods on them following his death.
Source: Author daver852

This quiz was reviewed by FunTrivia editor WesleyCrusher before going online.
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