Saturday, March 19, 2011

Type 51: The Rape of Europa

Another of Zeus’s erotic adventures was the abduction of Europa, daughter of Agenor, king of Tyre in Phoenicia. While she was playing on the beach with her attendants, Zeus appeared to her in the guise of a  beautiful bull. Charmed by the creatures friendliness, Europa clambered happily onto its back, whereupon Zeus plunged into the waves and carried her off to Crete, where he supposedly fathered Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon on her. 

This distinctly peculiar legend may have been an attempt by the Greeks to explain invasions, expeditions, or cultural or trading links of the past, or even reflect distant memories of such events. Herodotus asserts that Greek raiders“they were probably Cretanskidnapped Europa from Tyre, possibly in revenge for the earlier abduction of Io from Argos. Several cities of the ancient world (including the Roman Republic) put Europa on their coins, and she also makes a modern appearance on the standard two Euro coins of Greeceone of the most attractive designs in the whole Euro series.

At Seleuceia ad Calycadnum in Cilicia, the depiction of the abduction includes a little figure of Eros giving his encouragement to what is going on.

* Seleuceia ad Calycadnum in Cilicia, coins of Julia Domna showing Europa carried r. on a bull, holding a billowing garment above her head (to suggest the wind, i.e. movement). The bull is being led by Eros flying r. (but turned back to look at Europa); below it is the upper body of an ocean deity wearing a crab headdress, and holding a rudder and a dolphin.

Æ 22, 2 h, 4.87 g. Obv. IOYΛIA ΔOM[NA CEBACT]. Draped bust of Julia Domna r. Rev. CEΛEYKEΩN KA, in ex. ΛYKA. As described above.

Æ 23, 6 h, 6.43 g. Similar, with a delightful portrait of Domna (Private collection, photos by permission).

Æ 24, 8.05 g. Similar (Photo courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.,


Seleuceia ad Calycadnum / Julia Domna
References: SNG von Aulock 5829; SNG France 984; SNG Levante 742; SNG Levante Supplement 191; Imhoof-Blumer, Kleinasiatische Münzen, 10; SNG Pfalz, 6, 1053; Lindgren III, 895 
Rarity: Common

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