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Tetradrachm (Coin) Depicting a Cista with Snake

A work made of silver.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of silver.


133-67 BCE


Greek; minted in Pergamon, Asia Minor (now Turkey)

About this artwork

The snakes used in the initiation ceremony of the cult of Dionysos were kept in a cista mystica, or sacred container. The snake represented the god himself in his role as a fertility deity and symbol of reincarnation. This very popular coin type shows the sacred snake wriggling out of a basket encircled by a wreath made of ivy leaves. As part of the rites of Dionysos, the ancient Greeks and Romans chewed ivy leaves, a mild hallucinogen.


On View, Gallery 151


Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium


Ancient Greek


Tetradrachm (Coin) Depicting a Cista with Snake


Ancient Greece (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

133 BCE–67 BCE




Diam.: 2.6 cm (1 1/16 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of William F. Dunham

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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