Sunday, March 13, 2011

Type 30: Eros with Aphrodite Holding a Mirror

Aphrodite gazing admiringly into a mirror—but without Eros or Erotes in the vicinity—appears as a motif on coins of Seleuceia ad Calycadnum in Cilicia (Æ of Julia Mamaea, Gordian III and Trebonianus Gallus and AR of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus) and on Æ coins of Marcus Aurelius from Syedra in Cilicia, Marcus Aurelius from Carallia in Cilicia (illustration, left), Julia Domna in the same city, and Septimius Severus from Attaleia in Pamphylia (illustration, right).

The attractive type of Aphrodite with a mirror attended by Eros or Erotes seems to have been issued only by the two cities of Seleuceia ad Calycadnum and Antiocheia ad Maeandrum in Caria (which also struck coins showing Eros holding up the mirror, see Type 26), and in both cases during the reign of Gordian III. These are amongst the most charming portayals of Eros on provincial coins, and the Seleuceian coins of the standard type (see the description below) are perhaps the most affordable of the larger coins with Eros motifs.

* Antiocheia ad Maeandrum in Caria, a coin of Gordian III showing Aphrodite, naked to the waist, standing r., holding in her r. a mirror, in which she is admiring herself, and with Erotes to l. and r. of her.

* Seleuceia ad Calycadnum in Cilicia, coins of Gordian III (illustration) showing Aphrodite, fully clothed or with one breast bared, standing r., holding in her r. a mirror, in which she is admiring herself, and with Erotes to l. and r. of her, each holding a burning torch (there are some variations in the legend, and in the description of the Erotes).

Æ 32, 6 h, 19.51 g. Obv. ANTΩNIOC ΓOPΔIANOC CEBA. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Gordian III r., countermark on neck: circle in triangle (Howgego, GIC 670). Rev. CEΛEYKEΩN TΩ ΠPOC TΩ KAΛYKAΔ. Standard type, as described above.

There is also a delightful variant (illustration) with an Eros with torch behind Aphrodite but in front of her a pedestal supporting a basin on which two birds are perched. Does the basin have cultic significance (we know very little about the worship of Aphrodite at Seleuceia)? Is it for the purposes of her toilette? Here it seems to be being used as a birdbath! (For a similar detail on a coin of Tium in Bithynia, see Type 26.) One of the most famous artworks of antiquity, a much copied sentimental favourite in Roman times, was the Dove Basin mosaic of Sosos of Pergamum (second century B.C.), described in the Elder Pliny’s Natural History (XXXVI)—there may be an echo of the motif here. Aelian, a protegé of Julia Domna’s and author of On the Nature of Animals, called pigeons (which have always been known for their amorous behaviour) the pets of Aphrodite.
Æ 34, 6 h, 17.72 g. Obv. As previous coin. Rev. CEΛEYKEΩN TΩ ΠPOC TΩ YKAΛ(sic)KAΔ, (in exergue) NΩBirdbath type, as described above. 

Corpus

Antiocheia ad Maeandrum / Gordian III
References: Bernhart, Aphrodite, 199; Imhoof-Blumer, Kleinasiatische Münzen, 22
Rarity: RRR

Seleuceia ad Calycadnum / Gordian III (standard type)
References: Imhoof-Blumer, Griechische Münzen, 576-78; Bernhart, Aphrodite, 197-98; SNG Copenhagen 215; SNG von Aulock 5839-40; SNG Levante Supplement 202; SNG Pfalz 6, 1075; SNG Levante 773-74; SNG Righetti 1627; SNG France 2, 1020, 1029; SNG Leypold 2601-2
Rarity: Common

Seleuceia ad Calycadnum / Gordian III (birdbath type)
References: Imhoof-Blumer, Griechische Münzen, 579; Bernhart, Aphrodite, 196; Lindgren I, 1589, wrongly described as Emperor... holding globus
Rarity: R 



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