Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Type 21: Eros Riding on a Dolphin

According to the late Roman author Nonnus, it was a dolphin that brought the sea-born goddess Aphrodite to land near Paphos in Cyprus (Dionysiaca, XIII), and the affectionate, playful animals were associated with both Aphrodite and Eros. He is often shown riding a dolphin, and sometimes waving a whip, holding out a wreath or pulling on reins. Over the silver [of the sea] on dancing dolphins ride guileful Love and laughing Desire(Anacreontea, transl. David A. Campbell).

This motif appeared in the third century B.C. on coins of Paestum in Lucania (illustration):
and in the first century B.C. on Roman Republican denarii of Mn. Cordius Rufus (illustration, photo courtesy of Andrew McCabe) and L. Lucretius Trio (illustration, photo courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.,

Eros on a dolphin appears on many provincial issues, including coins from Carteia in Baetica (Spain); Tomis in Moesia; Anchialus, Deultum, Hadrianopolis, Perinthus, Serdica and Trajanopolis in Thracia; Cius, Nicaea, Nicomedia and Prusias ad Hypium in Bithynia; Lampsacus in Mysia; and Alexandreia in Egypt. 

The image of a wingless boy riding on a dolphin on rare coins of Faustina Junior from Pordosilene (Lesbos) (SNG Leypold 783) is not Eros, but relates to the local tradition of a tame dolphin, mentioned by Pausanias (III, 25). Other figures riding on or being carried by dolphins on ancient coins include Taras at Tarentum and Brundisium, Arion at Methymna, Hermias at Iasus and Melicertes at Corinth. Stories of dolphins rescuing humans from drowning or even from shark-attacks have been recorded in many parts of the world.

* Carteia in Baetica, c. 25 B.C., coins with obverse Fortuna, Eros on a dolphin to r. on the reverse, a type presumably imitated from the Roman Republican denarii mentioned above (illustration). The coins with Eros to l. are much rarer.
* Tomis in Moesia, coins with obverse type of the founder of the city, Tomos (illustration, from a Gorny & Mosch auction, photo courtesy of Lübke & Wiedemann KG).

* Anchialus in Thracia, coins of Maximinus I (illustration); coins with obverse bust to l. (illustration) are much rarer.

Æ 19, 8 h, 3.97 g. Obv. [AYT MAΞI]MEINOC EYCE AVΓ. Laureate head of Maximinus I r. Rev. AΓXIAΛEΩN. Eros, wielding a whip, riding a dolphin r.

Æ 20, 4.66 g. Obv. AYT MAΞIMEINOC EYC. Laureate, cuirassed bust of Maximinus I with shield and spear r. Rev. AΓXIAΛEΩN. Eros riding a dolphin r. (Private collection, photos by permission).

* Deultum in Thracia, coins of Diadumenian Caesar, Maximinus I and Gordian III (illustrations), perhaps also of Maximus Caesar (Varbanov 2504, not illus.).

4.51 g. Obv. M OPEL ANTONINVS […]. Bare-headed, draped and cuirassed bust of Diadumenian Caesar r. Rev. C F P D. Eros, holding reins in both hands, riding r. on a dolphin (Photos courtesy of Lübke & Wiedemann KG).

Similar, Æ 18, 7 h, 4.43 g. 

Æ 19, 7 h, 5.30 g. Obv. IMP MAXIMINVS AVG. Laureate, draped (and cuirassed?) bust of Maximinus I r. Rev. C F P D. Same type as last.

Æ 19, 2 h, 3.77 g. Obv. GORDIANVS IMP AVG. Laureate and cuirassed bust of Gordian III l., holding shield and spear. Rev. C F P D.  Eros, holding reins with his l. and a whip in his r., riding r. on a dolphin (Photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.,

Similar (Æ 16, 3 h, 2.87 g).

* Hadrianopolis in Thracia, coins of Caracalla, with two distinctly different arrangements of the reverse legend (illustrations), and of Gordian III (illustrations).

(Reverse A) Æ 17, 8 h, 3.36 g. Obv. ΑΥT K M AYP CE [ANTΩ]NEINOC. Laureate bust of Caracalla r. Rev. AΔPI[ANOΠ]OΛEITΩN (circular legend). Eros, holding reins in both hands, riding r. on a dolphin.

(Reverse B) Æ 17, 7 h, 2.99 g. Obv. ΑΥT K M AYP CEY ANTΩ[NEINOC]. Laureate bust of Caracalla r. Rev. AΔPIANOΠOΛEIT[ΩN] (legend arranged in three lines). Same type as last.

Æ, 3.03 g. Obv. ΑΥT K M ANT ΓOPΔIANOC. Laureate head of Gordian III r. Rev. AΔPIANOΠOΛEITΩN. Eros, holding a whip, riding r. on a dolphin (Photos courtesy of H. D. Rauch). 

Similar, Æ 16, 6 h, 2.89 g. 

* Perinthus in Thracia, coins of Elagabalus, with Eros to r. (illustration), and of Gordian III, with Eros to l. (illustration).

Æ 17, 7 h, 2.00 g. Obv. AΥT K M AYP ANTΩNINOC. Laureate head of Elagabalus r. Rev. ΠEPINΘIΩN B NEΩKOPΩN. Eros, holding reins in both hands, riding r. on a dolphin.

Æ 18, 2 h, 2.14 g. Obv. M ANT ΓO[PΔIANOC]. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Gordian III r. Rev. ΠEPINΘIΩN B NEΩK. Eros, holding reins in both hands, riding l. on a dolphin.

* Serdica in Thracia, possibly coins of Caracalla (Varbanov 2804, not illus.).

* Trajanopolis in Thracia, coins of Caracalla (illustrations). These are the commonest provincial coins with this reverse. Poorly preserved specimens are often mistaken for the type A coins of Hadrianopolis.

Æ 16, 7 h, 3.36 g. Obv. AΥT K M AYP C ANTΩNEINOC. Laureate head of Caracalla r. Rev. TPAIANOΠOΛEITΩN. Eros, holding reins in both hands, riding r. on a dolphin.

Similar, from a Lanz auction (photo courtesy of Lübke & Wiedemann KG).

* Cius in Bithynia, coins of Valerian I (illustration), known so far from only a single specimen.
Æ 18, 7 h, 2.89 g. Obv. Γ ΠOY ΛI OYΑΛEPIANOC. Radiate, draped (and cuirassed?) bust of Valerian I r. Rev. KIANΩN. Eros, holding out a wreath, riding l. on a dolphin.

* Nicaea in Bithynia, coins of Marcus Aurelius (illustration) and Commodus Caesar.

Æ 18, 6 h, 3.16 g. Obv. [A]Y KAI M ΑΥPH ANTΩN…. Bare-headed bust of Marcus Aurelius r. Rev. NIKAIEΩN. Eros, holding a whip (?), riding r. on a dolphin.

* Nicomedia in Bithynia, coins of Antoninus Pius (illustration) and Commodus.

Æ 18, 1 h, 2.92 g. Obv. [AYT] KAICAP [ANTΩNINOC]. Laureate head of Antoninus Pius r. Rev. MHT KAI [ΠPΩT] NIKOMHΔEI. Eros riding r. on a dolphin.

* Prusias ad Hypium in Bithynia, tiny coins of Septimius Severus (illustration).

Æ 14, 6 h, 2.52 g. Obv. ΑΥ K Λ […]YHPOC Π. Laureate head of Septimius Severus r. Rev. ΠPOYCIE[Ω]N ΠPOC YΠIΩ. Eros, holding reins with one hand and a whip (?) in the other, riding r. on a dolphin.

* Lampsacus in Mysia, coins of Caracalla (illustration).

Æ 16, 7 h, 2.70 g. Obv. … ANTΩN…. Laureate, draped bust of Caracalla r. Rev. ΛAMΨAKHNΩN. Eros, holding the reins with one hand and a wreath in the other, riding r. on a dolphin.

* Alexandreia in Egypt, small bronzes of year 5 of Antoninus Pius, showing Eros on a dolphin to l.

* On the reverse of a large (43 mm.) lead tessera from Roman Spain there is a motif that is not found on coins: Eros driving a biga of cavorting dolphins (illustration, the obverse shows a helmeted head of Roma) (Photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.,

* See also the oil lamp illustrated under Type 24, with Eros riding on a dolphin and playing a flute.

* Here is Eros as charioteer on a fragment of Roman terra sigillata pottery, but it isn't clear what is pulling his chariot - perhaps dolphins?


Carteia / Fortuna (type to r.)
References: RPC I, 116, 118
Rarity: Very common

Carteia / Fortuna (type to l.)
References: RPC I, 117; RPC Supplement 2, 117/4
Rarity: R 

Tomis / Tomos
Reference: Pick/Regling, AMNG, 2566
Rarity: RRR 

Anchialus / Maximinus I (bust to r.)
References: Strack, AMNG, 612; Varbanov 514, 515
Rarity: Scarce

Anchialus / Maximinus I (bust to l.)
Previously unpublished?
Rarity: RRR 

Deultum / Diadumenian Caesar
References: Varbanov 2226, 2227, 2229
Rarity: Common

Deultum / Maximinus I
References: Jurukova 198; Varbanov 2432-34
Rarity: Common

Deultum / Maximus Caesar [?]
Reference: Varbanov 2504
Rarity: RRR (if genuine)

Deultum / Gordian III
References: Varbanov 2882-84
Rarity: Very common

Hadrianopolis / Caracalla (type A, circular legend)
References: Yououkova 384, 386; BMC 23
Rarity: Common 

Hadrianopolis / Caracalla (type B, three-line legend)
References: Youroukova 387; Varbanov 3517
Rarity: Scarce
Hadrianopolis / Gordian III
References: Youroukova 678; Varbanov 3918
Rarity: RR

Perinthus / Elagabalus
References: Schönert 708; Varbanov 375 (with erroneous description)
Rarity: RR

Perinthus / Gordian III
References: Schönert 851; Varbanov 492, 493
Rarity: Scarce

Serdica / Caracalla [?]
Reference: Varbanov 2084
Rarity: RRR (if genuine)
Trajanopolis / Caracalla
References: Schönert-Geiss 142-44; Varbanov 2815-17
Rarity: Very common

Cius / Valerian I
Previously unpublished?
Rarity: RRR

Nicaea / Marcus Aurelius
Reference: Forrer (Weber Coll.) 4901 
Rarity: RRR

Nicaea / Commodus Caesar
References: RPC IV, 5984; Waddington, Recueil général, 238; SNG Copenhagen 491
Rarity: RRR

Nicomedia / Antoninus Pius 
References: RPC IV, 5592; Waddington, Recueil général, 66
Rarity: RR

Nicomedia / Commodus
References: RPC IV, 5624; Waddington, Recueil général, 124; BMC 27
Rarity: RRR

Prusias ad Hypium / Septimius Severus
Previously unpublished?
Rarity: RRR

Lampsacus / Caracalla
References: SNG von Aulock 1308; SNG Copenhagen 239
Rarity: RR

Alexandreia / Antoninus Pius
References: RPC IV, 1480, 16324
Rarity: R

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