Owl on a Storage Jar

182 - 181 B.C.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

The helmeted head of the Greek goddess Athena on the front and her symbolic bird, the owl, on the back decorate this four-drachma coin, a tetradrachm. Athena was the patron goddess of the city of Athens. For almost five hundred years, beginning about 520-510 B.C., Athena and her owl were ever-present on Athenian coins, which are nicknamed "owls." The olive wreath surrounding the owl, and the small sideways amphora on which it stands, identify this coin as belonging to the series of owls that began to be minted in 196-195 B.C. The olive wreath and the amphora are emblems of the principal agricultural products of Athens, olives and olive oil. Two Greek words appear on the back. "Athe," which stands for Athens, is on the same level as the owl's eyes. Written below that is the name of an Athenian magistrate, "Ammodio," whose service in government dates to 182-181 B.C. A tiny image of a container appears to the owl's left; its precise significance is unknown.


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