Description:In ancient initiation ceremonies known as the Dionysian mysteries, a serpent representing the god Dionysus, was carried in a box called a Cista Mystica "sacred chest" on a bed of vine leaves. Dionysus was the son of Zeus and a major figure in Greek mythology as the god of wine, agriculture and theater. He was also the Liberator, freeing one from one's normal self and to bring an end to care and worry with music, ecstasy and wine. The reverse side of this ancient Greek coin depicts a Cista Mystica within an ivy wreath. The obverse side shows two serpents entwined around a bow case, with a serpent entwined thyrsos to the right.
This coin was minted in the Hellenistic city of Pergamon, which was located in modern-day western-Turkey, 26 miles from the coast of the Aegean Sea. Pergamon was settled around the 8th century BC and in 281 BC, became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon under the Attalid dynasty. The Attalids transformed the city of Pergamon into one of the great cultural centers of the Greek world, home to the Temple of Dionysus and the Acropolis of Pergamon, which was modeled after the Acropolis in Athens. The city’s theater had a seating capacity of 10,000, with the steepest seating of any known theater in the ancient world. The Attalids were loyal supporters of Rome and ruled with intelligence and generosity and the Greek cities in the Kingdom of Pergamon maintained a level of independence. When the ruler Attalus III died without an heir in 133 BC, he bequeathed the whole of Pergamon to Rome in order to prevent a civil war.