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Festival of Isis

228, Lot: 334. Estimate $150.
Sold for $525. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Festival of Isis. Mid 4th century AD. Æ 12mm (1.03 g, 12h). Draped bust of Isis right / Isis standing right, head left, on galley, holding sail in both hands. Alföldi, Festival pl. XVIII, 27-32 var.; Vagi -. Good VF, reddish-brown patina. An unusual coin on a small flan. The obverse appears to show Isis wearing a necklace and no beard, but the legend appears to end IDI, as in DEO SERAPIDI which is usually seen with a bust of Serapis. The normal obverse legend for the Isis obverse should read ISIS FARIA.

The Isis festival was a major celebration in Rome in the 3rd and 4th centuries, heralding the arrival of the ship of Isis (navigium Isidis) from Alexandria on 5 March. Besides Isis, other members of the Egyptian pantheon appear: Serapis, Horus, Anubis, Harpocrates, and Nilus. Such coins or tokens with imperial busts were first struck by Diocletian at Rome to mark the arrival of the ship, and the tradition continued through the 4th century. The latest imperial bust to appear is that of Valentinian II. Alföldi proposes that in the Middle Ages the festival associated with the Isis ship (also known as carrus navalis) became the car naval or carnival.