Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thanks and Acknowledgements

The initial version of this survey was completed on January 12th, 2018. Please ignore the dates and times given for the individual posts: they were manipulated to enable a thematic arrangement in the blog archive. Now I shall be adding new material, correcting mistakes, uploading better illustrations, and re-formatting. To avoid having to re-number the types should a tremendously rare singleton suddenly need to be accommodated, I have kept Type 24 (Miscellaneous Erotes, presently consisting of earlier coins, some Roman Imperial coins and medallions, artefacts, lead seals, and tesserae) for that eventuality.

Here is a provisional listing of those whove worked on or in different ways helped with the project or been consulted (the list is alphabetical, and doesnt give academic titles). Please contact us if weve forgotten you. Sincere thanks to everyone!
Bartosz Awianowicz
Gilles Blançon
Gert Boersema
Peter G. Burbules
Dario Calomino
CNG (Classical Numismatic Group)
Curtis Clay
Alfredo De La Fé
Dan Diffendale
Kurt Ellenberger
Emporium Hamburgense
Fabrizio Fazioli
Julia Finster
Mark Fox
G&N (Gitbud & Naumann Münzhandlung München GmbH)
Martin Griffiths
Wayne von Hardenberg
Hans-Joachim Hoeft
Nina Hristova
Paul-Francis Jacquier
Francis Jarman
Gospodin Jekov
Jencek Historical Enterprise
Dane Kurth (Helvetica)
Ilian Lalev
Hubert Lanz
Patricia Lawrence
Derek Lewis
Hartmann Linge
Anne Lübke
Pierre-Damien Manisse
Andrew McCabe
Ryan McVay
Malcolm Megaw
Steve Minnoch
Georg Morawietz
Alex Morley-Smith
Hans-Christoph von Mosch
Heinz-W. Müller
Wilhelm Mueseler
Numismatik Naumann GmbH
Uwe Naumann
Numismatica Ars Classica (NAC)
Masis Panos
William Peters
Praefectus Coins
Michel Prieur
H. D. Rauch
Gerhard Rohde
Roma Numismatics
Roman Provincial Coinage Online (RPC)
Lars Rutten
Wayne G. Sayles
Wolfgang Christian Schneider
Joe Sermarini
Peter Spohn
Dietmar Spurgarth
Clive Stannard
Joachim Stollhoff
Greg Terzian
Wolfram Tillack
Titiana & Slavey Art Numis
Bill Welch
plus a number of private collectors who prefer to remain anonymous.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

But None of These is Eros

Eros, naked and male, is not to be confused with other winged beings or naked youths. 

For example clothed, female figures like Nike, here on a coin from Nicopolis ad Istrum (Moesia).

Or Nemesis, here on the reverse of a coin from Tripolis in Lydia


or as an unattributed provincial countermark (= Howgego, GIC 283).

More mysterious is the youth holding a bird in his outstretched hand on coins of Pergamon (Mysia) with obverse type of helmeted head of Athena, who was identified by Imhoof-Blumer in 1908 (Zur griechischen und römischen Münzkunde, 2) as one of the minor gods of healing associated with Asclepius. These included Telesphorus, normally represented as a little cloaked figure, however, rather than as a naked youth, and Euamerion. Two reverses are shown here, of coins struck by Ioulios Pollion in the time of Hadrian (l.) and by Diodoros in the time of Commodus (r.).

There are also nude boys depicted on the reverse of Hadrianic coins from Hierocaesareia in Lydia (photo courtesy of Numismatik Naumann GmbH), but these too are not winged.

If the boy on a dolphin isn’t winged, he probably isn’t Eros. On this coin, from Tarentum in Italy, it is Taras. For other dolphin-riders, see Type 21.

Another mysterious reverse type comes from Serdica (Thracia) and shows a naked young god with a serpent-staff; by his side is a small figure, reaching up towards him (illustrations). The two figures are not Aesclupius and Eros, but Apollo the Healer and, possibly, his son Aesculapius; alternatively, Telesphorus (as Patricia Lawrence has pointed out, the identification is difficult because of the lack of attributes; see the discussion of Aesculapius, Telesphorus, and Co. in Hans-Joachim Hoefts Münzen und antike Mythologie, 2011, pp.279 ff. and 289 ff.). Here are two variants: on the left (photo courtesy of Lübke & Wiedemann KG) the tiny figure is naked, while on the right (photo courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., he is wearing a chlamys over his shoulders, which might easily be mistaken for wings on a worn specimen of the coin.


It is the infant Heracles (and not Eros) who is portrayed carrying the club and lionskin on a coin of Heracleia Pontica in Bithynia (SNG von Aulock 423), or fighting, here, on a coin from Serdica (Thracia), with the serpents sent to kill him by the jealous Hera (photo courtesy of Lübke & Wiedemann KG).



Nor should his son Telephus, shown here with Heracles on another coin from Serdica (photo courtesy of Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger), be mistaken for Eros. Compare the pose of Telephus on this coin with that of the child (Eros?) on the coin of Nicomedia (Type 42), who seems to be floating in front of Heracles rather than squatting on his arm.

But the child most easily mistaken for Eros is Dionysus, shown here on a coin of Geta from Nicaea (photo by courtesy of Münzen & Medaillen GmbH), riding on a panther.


Dionysus is also represented as a child in an improvised cradle, actually a corn-sieve for separating wheat from chaff, here on a coin of Septimius Severus from Nicaea in Bithynia (photo by courtesy of Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger).


On other coins he is shown being looked after by various helpers, including Silenus, on an extremely rare coin of Sardes, illustrated on p.295 of Hans-Joachim Hoefts Münzen und antike Mythologie, or by Hermes, here on an extremely rare coin of Septimius Severus from Philippopolis in Thracia, misread by Varbanov (1252) as Naked Apollo stg. r., resting on column and holding bow (?)”, but reproducing the famous statue by Praxiteles at Olympia, of which the Philippopolitans presumably had a nice copy. There is a similar coin (of Marcus Aurelius Caesar) from Anchialus (AMNG 427), also exceptionally rare.


On charming coins of Marcus Aurelius at Philippopolis (Thracia), Dionysus (or a Baccchic child) is shown dancing, holding a thyrsus and a cantharus (from a private collection, photo by permission); there is a cruder version of the same type for Commodus at Nicopolis ad Istrum (Moesia).


Finally, there are very rare representations of the naked Hermaphrodite on provincial coins, including the famous statuary type of the Sleeping Hermaphrodite (there are many surviving Roman copies of this risqué statue), on a coin of Augusta Trajana in Thracia (Varbanov 847, misread as Dancing maenad (Genius?) naked, stg. facing, hd. r., holding veil in raised r. hand, and 854 f., River-god swimming r.),


and a remarkable coin of Septimius Severus from Hadrianopolis in Thracia (Varbanov 3392, though wrongly described) that shows Hermaphrodite dancing with Pan (photo courtesy of Peter G. Burbules).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Doubtful: Eros in a Temple

The existence of coins with this reverse type remains unconfirmed. The two “sightings” are not from mints that you might expect, like Thespiae in Boeotia or Parium in Mysia, but from Dium in Macedonia and the Koinon of Bithynia, and both are uncertain.

Mionnet (Supplement III, 414) describes a coin of Severus Alexander from Dium, but with an obverse inscription not listed in Varbanov. I suggest that (if the coin is indeed from Dium) this is probably a misreading of a worn coin with the well-known reverse type of Asclepius in a temple.

There is a Koinon of Bithynia coin of Hadrian (Waddington, Recueil général, 42) that purportedly shows two statues above the pediment of an octostyle temple: a winged figure (Eros?), on the left, pursuing a naked figure, on the right. The coin is not illustrated, and is described as having been seen in trade. Its existence has not been confirmed by RPC III. More certain are the coins of Hadrian and Sabina with the same reverse of an octostyle temple (the temple of Rome and Augustus at Nicomedia)  including a tiny figure of a sacrificing Genius” in the pediment (RPC III, 987, 1013-14, 1023-24), but hardly an Eros (the same figure is shown full-size on RPC 965).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Type 56: Eros or Erotes with Tyche

Eros is shown with Tyche on coins of Aegeira in Achaea and Midaëum in Phrygia.

* Aegeira in Achaea, coins of Plautilla (not illustrated) showing Eros r., holding a long sceptre, facing Tyche l., holding a long staff and cornucopiae. The BCD Collection specimen is holed, and BCD himself has added a charming comment in the auction catalogue: “Tyche and Eros, what a meaningful combination! This coin was surely pierced and carried as an amulet (probably suspended with a cord around the neck) by someone who wished to be lucky in love. If we judge by the amount of wear it has it seems to have produced good results.

* Midaëum in Phrygia, coins of Caracalla, Severus Alexander (not illustrated), and Maximinus I (not illustrated), showing Tyche seated on a rock; on the Severus Alexander coins she is accompanied by Eros and the river-god Tembris, on those of Caracalla and Maximinus I by two Erotes with torches.

Obv. ANTΩNEINOC AYΓOYCTOC. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Caracalla r. Rev. MIΔAEΩN. As described above.
Note: I made no record of the origin of the photographs of this coin. If the owner of the images or of the coin would be so kind as to contact me, I'd be happy to add an appropriate acknowledgement (or delete the images if required). 

The tiny figure standing behind Tyche on coins of Marcus Aurelius from Gadara in the Decapolis may or not be Eros (see Type 39). 

(Photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.,


Aegeira / Plautilla
References: LHS, auction 96: Coins of Peloponnesos: The BCD Collection, 422.4Imhoof-Blumer & Gardner, Ancient Coins Illustrating Lost Masterpieces of Greek Art (A Numismatic Commentary on Pausanias), p.91 and Plate S, ix
Rarity: RRR

Midaëum / Caracalla
Uncertain source, see note above
Rarity: RRR 

Midaëum / Severus Alexander
References: von Aulock, Münzen und Städte Phrygiens II, 813-14
Rarity: RRR 

Midaëum / Maximinus I
References: von Aulock, Münzen und Städte Phrygiens II, 823; Imhoof-Blumer, Kleinasiatische Münzen, 5
Rarity: RRR

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Type 55: Eros Flees from Psyche

Eros flees from Psyche, after she has discovered his identity. Only one city, Nicomedia in Bithynia, placed this motif on its coins.

* Nicomedia in Bithynia, coins of Maximus Caesar (not illustrated) on which Eros is shown fleeing l., while Psyche, kneeling l., tries to restrain him.

* On Italian local coinages of the Roman Republic, Eros is represented as bound to a pillar and awaiting punishment for his mistreatment of Psyche (Stannard, series 35a-c). There are also gemstones that must have served as amulets: showing Eros bound to a column inscribed ΔIKAIΩC (justly), [they] are magical and are meant to punish the object of the unrequited love (Schwartz, Engraved gems).  


Nicomedia / Maximus Caesar
References: Waddington, Recueil général, 351; SNG von Aulock 801 
Rarity: RRR

Type 54: Eros Embracing Psyche

The story of Eros and Psyche is told in the Golden Ass of Apuleius (second century A.D.). Sent by his jealous mother Aphrodite to punish the beautiful Psyche (the soul) by making her fall in love with some disgusting creaturea motif found again in Shakespeares A Midsummer Nights DreamEros himself falls for her, and visits her every night, though without revealing himself to her. He warns her never to look at his face, or she will lose him forever. However, spurred on by her jealous sisters, she does precisely that, and the lovers are parted. To find out how the story continues, and whether it has a happy ending or not, the reader is invited to read Apuleiuss charming text, once described as Shakespeares favourite novel (Shakespeare also used Apuleiuss device of transformation into an ass). Here is a link to Patricia Lawrences page on Eros and Psyche on her Opera Nobilia website.  

There are many surviving representations of the lovers in ancient art, including the statuary groups in the Altes Museum, Berlin (centre) and the Capitoline Museum, Rome (left), Roman copies of Hellenistic originals. Normally Eros is on the left, but this little first century A.D. terracotta from Olbia on the Black Sea (in the National Museum in Poznań, Poland) has the positions reversed (right).

The provincial mints that illustrated the embrace of Eros and Psyche were Serdica in Thracia and Patrae in Achaea. 

* Serdica in Thracia, coins of Septimius Severus and Caracalla, all of them rare. Although most cataloguers have not made the distinction, there are actually two reverse types: (A) Eros r. and Psyche l. in close embrace, with a burning altar behind Eros, and (B) Eros r. and Psyche l. in an arms length embrace. The coin listed by Mionnet (I, 369) could be either. 

Small Æ (here greatly enlarged), 3.05 g. [Obv. AY K M CEYEPOC.Laureate head of Septimius Severus r.] Rev. CEPΔΩN. Reverse type A (Photo courtesy of Lübke & Wiedemann KG).

Æ 19, 2 h, 3.56 g. [Obv. ...ANTΩNEINO.. Laureate (?), draped bust of Caracalla r.] Rev. CEPΔΩN. Reverse type A, from identical reverse die as the coin of Septimius Severus.

Æ 31, 1 h, 14.97 g. Obv. AYT K M AYP CEYH ANTΩNEINOC. Laureate bust of Caracalla r. Rev. OYΛΠIAC CEPΔIKHC. Reverse type B (Photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.,

Æ 30, 1 h, 15.73 g. Similar, reverse type B, enlargement of reverse below.

Æ 17, 1 h, 3.55 g. Obv. AYT K M AY CEY ANTΩNEINOC or similar. Laureate bust of Caracalla r. Rev. CEP>ΔΩN. Reverse type B, but with Eross bow and quiver behind him. 

Æ 20, 1 h, 4.03 g, but with antique silver mount.

* Patrae in Achaea, coins of Commodus (not illustrated) showing Eros and Psyche embracing. Their pose (facing, but with their upper bodies half turned towards each other to enable the embrace) is closer to that of the statuary groups than is the case with the Serdica coins.


* Here is a mosaic from Roman Corduba in Spain showing the lovers in a more dramatic embrace.



* To my knowledge, there is no provincial coin that definitely shows Eros with Psyche as a butterfly, as on the following Roman cornelian intaglio (photo courtesy of ACR Auctions)


or on this mosaic from the National Museum in Sofia. 

For false sightings of butterflies, see Type 04 (Prusa ad Olympum”) and Type 09 (Aphrodisias”).


Serdica / Septimius Severus (type A, small module)
Previously unpublished?
Rarity: RRR

Serdica / Caracalla (type A, small module)
Previously unpublished? 
Rarity: RRR

Serdica / Caracalla (type B, large module)
References: Hristova/Jekov; Varbanov 2311-12
Rarity: R

Serdica / Caracalla (type B, small module)
References: Hristova/Jekov; Varbanov 2081 
Rarity: RR

Patrae / Commodus
Reference: RPC IV, 10968
Rarity: RR