Saturday, March 19, 2011

Type 50: The Rape of Persephone

One of the most famous of Greek legends. The rape shown on the coins is not the sexual assault but the abduction of Demeter’s daughter Persephone by Hades. Struggling to free herself, Korē (the maiden, as she was also known) is carried off by Hades in his chariot, with Eros flying above. 

Many cities of the Roman world chose to use this motif, and those that also show Eros in attendance include Bithynium-Claudiopolis in Bithynia, the Koinon of Asia, Daldis, Gordus-Julia, Hyrcanis, Maeonia, Sardes and Thyateira in Lydia, Sebaste in Samaria, and Alexandreia in Egypt. 

The coin of Nero from Hierapolis in Phrygia (CNG, auction 60, 2002, 1238) is unconvincingthe Eros flying above looks to me more like a second horses head with prominent ears. And the authors of Roman Provincial Coinage, Supplement 2, have recorded the coin as a further specimen of RPC 2982, rather than as a new variant. Similarly, I cant see any Eros on RPC IX, 1287 (Trebonianus Gallus in Syedra in Cilicia).

* Bithynium-Claudiopolis in Bithynia, a very battered coin of Septimius Severus, with quadriga (?) l. led by an uncertain figure and Eros flying above the horses. This coin was sold by Peus in the 1970s, but I havent yet been able to obtain more detailed information (Photo courtesy of Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger).


* The Koinon of Asia, large coins (medallions) of Antoninus Pius. These handsome coins are not particularly rare, but are difficult and expensive for collectors to obtain, since most specimens are in institutional collections.


Æ 41, 12 h, 52.38 g. Obv. ANTΩNEINOC CEB AY KAI TI AI AΔPIANOC. Laureate, draped bust l. Rev. KOINON IΓ ΠOΛEΩN [ΠPO M KΛ ΦRONTΩN] ACIAPX KAI APXI ΓI ΠOΛEΩN. As described above, but with a large torch (? beneath the horses hindlegs (Photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.,

* Daldis in Lydia, a coin of Philip I.

Æ 38, 6 h, 26.01 g. Obv. AYT • K • M • IOYΛ • ΦIΛIΠΠOC • AYΓ. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Philip I r. Rev. EΠI ΦΛ AIΛ ΠPЄICKOY APX ΠPΩTO B •, in ex. ΔAΛΔIA/NΩN. As described above, but with Eros as charioteer (Photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., 

* Gordus-Julia in Lydia, large Æ coins of Valerian I (not illustrated).

* Hyrcanis in Lydia, coins of Hadrian. Also, Æ 36-39 coins of Commodus, on which, interestingly, Athena is shown standing behind the quadrigaand striking its wheel with her spear?


Æ 30, 12 h, 13.44 g. Obv. [AY] KAI TPAI AΔPIANOC CEB. Laureate and cuirassed bust of Hadrian r. Rev. [ANΘY KYIHTΩ?] YPKANΩN [MAKE]. As described above.


Æ 38, 6 h, 21.79 g. Obv. [AYTO KAI M AYPH KOMOΔOC]. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Commodus r., countermark: laureate (?) male bust r. (Howgego 91?) Rev. [CTPA Λ OYET ANTΩNEINOY] YPKANΩN [MAKE]. As described above, but with Athena standing r., holding spear downwards; below the horses, serpent and overturned flower-basket.

* Maeonia in Lydia, large Æ coins of Marcus Aurelius.


Æ 35, 24.70 g. Obv. AYT K M AYPHΛIS ANTΩNEINOC. Bare-headed, draped bust r. Rev. EΠI KYEINTOY B ARX A MAIONΩN. As described above, but with an overturned basket of flowers below the horses (Private collection, photos by permission).


* Sardes in Lydia, AR cistaphoric tetradrachms of Hadrian; although the mint is not named, the coin shown here was attributed to Nysa on the basis of the reverse type; however, when a second specimen appeared, die-studies led to the type being reattributed to Sardes. Also, large Æ coins of the Gordian III period (not illustrated), with Tyche, draped, veiled, and with a turreted crown, on the obverse r. (Mionnet, IV, p.137, 787, mistook Tyche for Tranquillina.)


AR cistaphoric tetradrachm, 12 h, 11.12 g. Obv. HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS P P. Bare head of Hadrian r. Rev. COS III. As described above (Photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.,


* Thyateira in Lydia, coins of Commodus (not illustrated), with laureate, draped and cuirassed bust r. A similar coin with laureate, draped head l. was reported by Mionnet (IV, 926). Both name the strategus Moschianos Phi(lippos).

* Sebaste in Samaria, coins of Commodus, Septimius Severus, Elagabalus (or Caracalla), Julia Soaemias and Julia Maesa. Sebaste became a Roman colony during the reign of Septimius Severus, and his coins still have Greek on the reverse, but have switched to Latin for the obverse. I have been unable to confirm the existence of coins of Julia Domna of this type, and I suspect that Mionnets two specimens (V, 162, and Supplement, VIII, 110) might be misreadings of worn coins of Soaemias or Maesa. 

The identity of the young Severan emperor Antoninus is a difficult question: if we postulate that coins of this type for both Caracalla and Elagabalus were struck at Sebaste, how do we tell them apart? Most specimens are in rough condition, and what can be seen of the portraits and the obverse inscriptions is of little help. Coins with Greek/Greek inscriptions cannot be of Elagabalus (but I have not encountered any); Latin/Greek would quite likely be Caracalla (though it doesnt occur for this type); and Latin/Latin could theoretically be either, though I strongly favour Elagabalus. Admittedly, Caracalla cannot be ruled out, because there are other, earlier, Sebaste coins, of Geta Caesar, with Latin/Latin inscriptions (e.g. Rosenberger 26), but it seems very plausible that there should have been an issue of coins of Elagabalus to accompany the substantial issues of this type for his mother and his grandmother, whereas there are only a handful of coins with this reverse for Septimius, probably none for Domna, and none known for Geta or Plautilla.


Æ 34, 12 h, 23.28 g. Obv. IMP C L SEPT SEV PERT AVG. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Septimius Severus r. Rev. CEBACTHNΩN CYP, date above L CKS (= 201-2). As described above (Photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.,

Æ 20, 14.41 g. Obv. Inscription undecipherable [IMP C M AVR ANTON AVG or similar]. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust (probably) of Elagabalus r., seen from behind. Rev. COL [L SEPT] SEBASTE or similar. As described above (Photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.,

Similar, Æ 23, 2 h, 11.58 g.

Similar, Æ 20, 1 h, 9.81 g.

Similar, Æ 21, 8 h, 9.90 g, with obverse countermark: laureate (?) bust r. (GIC 141).

Æ 21, 2 h, 11.71 g. Obv. SVAEMIAS AVGVSTA SEB. Draped bust of Julia Soaemias r. Rev. COL L SEPT SEBASTE or similar. As described above, with overturned basket of flowers below the horses (Photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.,

12.31 g. Obv. [AVGVSTA] MAESA. Draped bust of Julia Maesa r. Rev. COL L SEPT SEBAST or similar. As described above, with overturned basket of flowers below the horses (Photos courtesy of Lübke & Wiedemann KG).


* Alexandreia in Egypt, large denomination Æ coins (traditionally described as drachms) of regnal year 5, showing Hades driving his quadriga, carrying Persephone, r. towards a cave, with Eros flying above.


Bithynium-Claudiopolis / Septimius Severus
Previously unpublished?
Rarity: RRR

Koinon of Asia / Antoninus Pius 
References: RPC IV, 2296, 948; ANS 2006.21.5
Rarity: Common (but see note above)

Daldis / Philip
Previously unpublished?
Rarity: RRR

Gordus-Julia / Valerian I
References: BMC 45; Imhoof-Blumer, Lydische Stadtmünzen, 5 
Rarity: RRR

Hyrcanis / Hadrian
Reference: RPC III, 1957 
Rarity: RRR

Hyrcanis / Commodus
References: RPC IV, 1293; BMC 17 f.; SNG Righetti 1036
Rarity: Common (but the comment on the rarity of the Koinon of Asia coins applies to these coins too)

Maeonia / Marcus Aurelius
References: RPC IV, 1302; Imhoof-Blumer, Zur griechischen und römischen Münzkunde, 1; SNG von Aulock 3018
Rarity: RR

Sardes / Hadrian
Reference: RPC III, 1388
Rarity: RRR 

Sardes / Tyche
References: RPC VII, 1, 245; BMC 89
Rarity: RR

Thyateira / Commodus
References: RPC IV, 1547; SNG Copenhagen 600; Mionnet IV, 926
Rarity: RR

Sebaste / Commodus
Reference: RPC IV, 6267 
Rarity: RRR

Sebaste / Septimius Severus
Reference: Rosenberger, City-Coins of Palestine III, 17
Rarity: RR 

Sebaste / Elagabalus (probably)
Reference: Rosenberger, City-Coins of Palestine III, 21-23 (“Caracalla”), 27 (“Elagabalus)
Rarity: Common

Sebaste / Julia Soaemias
References: Rosenberger, City-Coins of Palestine III, 34 f.; SNG ANS 1084; Sear (GICV) 3218; BMC 18; Lindgren I, A2438A
Rarity: Common

Sebaste / Julia Maesa
References: Rosenberger, City-Coins of Palestine III, 30; ANS 2012.71.227; Sear (GICV) 3257; BMC 16
Rarity: Scarce

Alexandreia / Antoninus Pius
References: RPC IV, 13960; Emmett 1525; Milne 1728d; Geissen 1410
Rarity: RR 

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