Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Type 16: Eros Asleep

The type of Eros asleep, accompanied sometimes by the captured lionskin and club of Heracles or his own bow, quiver, arrows and torch, was a popular sentimental image in Roman times. The ancient poets frequently employed this motif, and Shakespeare picked up on the image in his 153rd and 154th Sonnets. Eros is most definitely only sleeping, and not dead or injured! He is exhausted from his labours, and resting until the next task begins.

There are epigrams in the Palatine Anthology (XVI,211: Statilius Flaccus; XVI,212: Alpheios) that suggest that the sleeping Eros is not really asleep, and that humankind will gain no respite from his disturbing influence! In another epigram, sleeping Eross torch is now in the hands of the nymphs, who believe that they can extinguish the fire in mens hearts, but all that they succeed in doing is setting fire to the water, so that in future people will have a hot bath! (IX,627: Marianos Scholastikos).

A Roman votive tablet from near Kyustendil (Pautalia) now in the Archaeological Museum in Sofia shows Ariadne, abandoned by Theseus on Naxos, reclining and with two resting or sleeping Erotes beside her; in the background, figures probably representing Dionysus and Sileni are approaching, with distinctly robust intent. The Erotes will soon be wide awake again...


There is a numismatic version of this scene, though without the Erotes, on a huge medallion of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna in Pergamum (= Gorny & Mosch, auction 114, lot 173, photos courtesy of Lübke & Wiedemann KG)
See also under Type 45.

The type of Eros asleep was struck in Nicopolis ad Istrum in Moesia and Laodiceia ad Lycum in Phrygia.

* Nicopolis ad Istrum in Moesia, coins of Julia Domna and Caracalla Caesar.

6.48 g. Obv. IOYΛIA ΔO[MNA CEBACTH]. Draped bust of Julia Domna r. Rev. NIKOΠOΛEITΩN ΠPOC ICT. Eros asleep l. on a lionskin, in front of him a torch (Photos courtesy of Lübke & Wiedemann KG).


Æ 22, 2 h, 5.42 g. Obv. M AYP KAI ANTΩNEINOC. Draped bust of Caracalla Caesar r. Rev. NIKOΠOΛEITΩN ΠPOC ICT. Similar type.


A similar, hitherto unpublished, reverse type for Commodus in Nicopolis was posted in FORVM’s discussion pages in 2006 (photos from private collections, by permission). Although Eros cannot completely be ruled out, the absence of such obvious attributes as wings makes it more likely that it is Heracles that is shown here.

* Laodiceia ad Lycum in Phrygia, coins of Elagabalus (not illustrated), and interesting coins with the personification of Synedrion Neōn, the council of young men, as the obverse type. The CNG cataloguer sees in the sleeping figure on the reverse “Hypnos-Thanatos, presumably because of the inverted torch and poppy, reclining on rocks beside the river Lethe, and connects the type with the military duties that the young men of the city might be training for. But Imhoof-Blumer has Eros (in Kleinasiatische Münzen and in Zur griechischen und römischen Münzkunde), and so does Barclay Head in the BMC catalogue, though Eros or Hypnos (?) in the Introduction and Eros winged or Thanatos, in sleeping attitude (a peculiar formulation) in Historia Numorum. The poppy indicates sleep, but Hypnos-Thanatos seems rather far-fetched.


Æ 25, 7 h, 8.30 g. Obv. CYNEΔPIΩN NEΩN. Draped bust of Synedrion Neōn l., wearing a taenia and with a pair of staves by his shoulder. Uncertain oval countermark, perhaps bust of Severus Alexander r. Rev. ΛAOΔIKEΩN NAΩKOPΩN [sic]. Eros asleep or resting l., his head on his l., which is supported by a pile of rocks; his torch is at his feet, his bow beside him, and in his r. he is holding a poppy.

Similar. Æ 25, 7 h, 5.83 g (Photos courtesy of Roma Numismatics).


Nicopolis ad Istrum / Julia Domna
References: Pick, AMNG, 1468; Hristova/Jekov; Varbanov 2856
Rarity: RR

Nicopolis ad Istrum / Caracalla Caesar
References: Pick, AMNG, 1489; Hristova/Jekov; Varbanov 2926
Rarity: Scarce

Laodiceia ad Lycum / Elagabalus
Reference: Imhoof-Blumer, Kleinasiatische Münzen, 55
Rarity: RR

Laodiceia ad Lycum / Synedrion Neōn
References: RPC VI, 5497; Imhoof-Blumer, Kleinasiatische Münzen, 52-54; BMC 130-32; SNG Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (Lewis Coll.) 1610
Rarity: Scarce 


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