Sunday, March 13, 2011

Type 32: Eros with Aphrodite Pudica

The most renowned of all nude statues of Aphrodite, and probably the most famous artwork of antiquity, was the notorious statue by Praxiteles of the goddess as Euploia, the protectress of sailors, at Cnidus in Caria. It was cherished by the Cnidians—not surprisingly, since, as the Elder Pliny pointed out in his Natural Historywith this statue Praxiteles made Cnidus a famous city. They set it up in its own pavilion, where it could be viewed and appreciated from all sides. Like the same sculptor’s Eros of Parium, it was reportedly the object of a misguided sexual assault that left it visibly stained (or was this just a fanciful explanation for a blotch of the kind occasionally encountered on marble?). 

There are very few representations of the Cnidia on ancient coins (here a very rare coin of Caracalla and Plautilla from Cnidus), and none that I know of with an attendant Eros added. 


Here is the Cnidia on a similarly rare coin of Diadumenian from Midaëum in Phrygia (photos courtesy of Lübke & Wiedemann KG).

Much commoner on the coins are images of the post-Praxitelean Aphrodite Pudica, where the goddess is represented shielding the shameful parts of her body with her hands. Many variant copies of this statuary motif have survived, the two most famous being the Capitoline Venus in Rome (left) and the Medici Venus in Florence (right):


As an example of the type on coins, here is a sinuously elegant Aphrodite from Apollonia in Illyricum, with Julia Domna on the obverse.

Aphrodite Pudica with an attendant Eros is found on coins of Nicopolis ad Istrum and Tomis in Moesia; Anchialus in Thracia; Sicyon in Achaea; Sinope in Paphlagonia; Hadriani ad Olympum in Mysia; Saïtta in Lydia; and Ptolemaïs-Akko in Phoenicia.

Nicopolis ad Istrum in Moesia, attractive coins of Julia Domna issued by the governor Aurelius Gallus.


Æ 26. Obv. IOYΛIA ΔOMNA CEBA. Draped bust of Julia Domna r. Rev. YΠA AYP ΓAΛΛOY NIKOΠOΛITΩN, ΠPOC I in exergue. Aphrodite of the Capitoline type standing facing, to l. Eros standing facing, head r., with wreath in his l. and torch in his r., both held downwards (Private collection, photos by permission). 

Æ 27, 7 h, 11.34 g. Similar.

Tomis in Moesia, coins (tetrassaria) of Elagabalus, with Eros bearing a wreath flying l. from a column towards Aphrodite, a dolphin behind her.

Æ 27, 15.6 g. Obv. AYT K M AYP ANTΩNEINOC. Laureate, draped bust of Elagabalus r. Rev. MHTPO PONTOY TOMEΩC. As described above (Photo courtesy of marcvs_aurelivs_caesar).

Anchialus in Thracia, coins of Maximinus I, with Eros on a dolphin to l. of Aphrodite.


Æ 25, 7 h, 11.15 g. Obv. AYT MΑΞΙΜΙΝΟC ΕΥCΕΒ ΑΥΓ. Laureate head of Maximinus I r. Rev. ΟΥΛΠΙΑΝΩΝ ΑΓΧΙΑΛΕΩΝ, the two ΩΝs as WN in ligature. As described above

Æ 23, 8.66 g. Similar (Photos courtesy of Numismatik Naumann GmbH).


Sicyon in Achaea, coins of Septimius Severus. Aphrodite was important in Sicyon. Her dove features very prominently on pre-Roman coins of the city (Head notes in Historia Numorum that it is probably the rock pigeon, great numbers of which still inhabit the cliffs that surround the ancient site. They were perhaps sacred to Apollo or Aphrodite, whose temple was one of the principal edifices of Sicyon). Bernhart comments that the presence of the low base that Eros is standing on shows that this coin reverse portrays a cult-group. The downturned torch on this, as on the coins of Nicopolis ad Istrum, in such close connection with Aphrodite Pudica, arguably the most deliberately sexy of all the representations of the goddess of love, underlines once again the wrongheadedness of identifying this type of Eros as Thanatos.


Æ 24 (2 assaria), 3 h, 5.78 g. Obv. AY • KAI Λ • C-E CEBHPOC. Laureate bust of Septimius Severus r. Rev. CIKYΩNIΩN. Eros r. on a low base, leaning on a downturned torch and holding out a fillet to Aphrodite standing l.

Sinope in Paphlagonia, a rather unusual coin of Maximinus I, with reverse type of Aphrodite Pudica or Euploia standing facing, head l., to the l. a dolphin (?) carrying a portable altar with an apple on it (?), to r. a small Eros standing l. The coin is dated 305 of the Era of Sinope (= 235 A.D.). There is a similar reverse—though without Eros—on a coin of Plautilla from Pautalia in Thracia (Varbanov 5291, Ruzicka 768—both of whom describe the altar as a column surmounted by a globe).

Æ 21, 6 h, 4.67 g. [Obv. IMP MAXIMINVS AVG. Laureate bust of Maximinus I r.] Rev. [C(olonia) R(omana) I(ulia) F(elix) S(inope) AN(no) CCCV]. As described above (Private collection, photos by permission).


Hadriani ad Olympum in Mysia, a coin of Julia Domna (not illustrated), with Eros standing to the r., facing l., and bearing an uncertain object, possibly a torch.

Saïtta in Lydia, coins of Crispina (not illustrated), naming the magistrate Artemidoros, with Eros to either l. or r. of Aphrodite, and of Clodius Albinus as Caesar, naming the magistrate Andronikos, with Eros and a dolphin likwise to l. and r. of Aphrodite (or vice versa).


Æ 26, 10.16 g. Obv. KΛΩ CEΠ • AΛBEINOC KAICAP. Bare-headed bust of Clodius Albinus as Caesar r. Rev. EΠI ANΔPONEIKOY APXA CAITT-, HNΩN in field. As described above (Photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.,

Ptolemaïs-Akko in Phoenicia, an extremely rare coin of Philip I (not illustrated), with Aphrodite, Eros on a dolphin to l., within an aedicula.


Nicopolis ad Istrum / Julia Domna
References: Hristova/Jekov; Pick, AMNG, 1455; Bernhart, Aphrodite, 241; Varbanov 2900
Rarity: Very common

Tomis / Elagabalus
References: Pick/Regling, AMNG, 3062; Bernhart, Aphrodite, 256; Varbanov 5175
Rarity: R

Anchialus / Maximinus I
References: Strack, AMNG, 598; Bernhart, Aphrodite, 240; Varbanov 594-95
Rarity: Scarce

Sicyon / Septimius Severus
Reference: Bernhart, Aphrodite, 257
Rarity: RRR

Sinope / Maximinus I
Reference: Bernhart, Aphrodite, 254 
Rarity: RRR

Hadriani ad Olympum / Julia Domna
References: Bernhart, Aphrodite, 242; Mionnet II, 48
Rarity: RRR

Saitta / Crispina (Eros on the r.) 
References: RPC IV, 1397; Bernhart, Aphrodite, 243; Imhoof-Blumer, Lydische Stadtmünzen, 6; SNG von Aulock 3095
Rarity: RRR

Saitta / Crispina (Eros on the l.)
References: RPC IV, 1398; Bernhart, Aphrodite, 244; Imhoof-Blumer, Lydische Stadtmünzen, 6a; SNG Righetti 1068
Rarity: RRR

Saïtta / Clodius Albinus (Eros on the r.)
Reference: Bernhart, Aphrodite, 245
Rarity: RRR

Saïtta / Clodius Albinus (Eros on the l.)
Reference: Imhoof-Blumer, Lydische Stadtmünzen, 7 
Rarity: RR

Ptolemaïs-Akko /Philip I 
Reference: Bernhart, Aphrodite, 263 
Rarity: RRR

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