Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Type 45: Eros with Dionysus (and Ariadne or Tyche) in a Biga

In the commonest version of the legend of Ariadne, she is brought to Naxos by Theseus, abandoned by him there, and discovered by Dionysus, who marries her. The moment of discovery is shown on a large medallion of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna from Pergamum, on a votive relief from Bulgaria (see Type 16), and (without Erotes) on a coin of Severus Alexander from Perinthus in Thracia illustrated on the Corpus Nummorum Thracorum; also, on an otherwise unpublished Æ 33 of Caracalla from Cotiaeum in Phrygia (photo by courtesy of Roma Numismatics). 
The auctioneer of this latter coin identifies the small central figure as Eros, and compares the composition with a mosaic from Volubilis in Morocco, but the Eros in the mosaic is flying, and the figure on the coin is clearly standing on a baseline, and advancing, and may therefore be an attendant to Dionysus, as on the Bulgarian relief, rather than Eros. The rather cluttered design of the coin makes a definite identification difficult. Eross right wing (if it is such) seems attached to the outstretched hand of Dionysus, and may in fact be a bunch of grapes, held at an awkward angle to keep in clear of Eross own outstretched right arm; the left wing looks more like a branch of the bush under which Ariadne is sheltering. The pose of the figure is reminiscent of the pose of the right-hand Silenic attendant on the Perinthus coin (“Hey, this is my boss!”), which would support this not being an Eros. Admittedly, Eros is standing in a very similar pose on a tiny lead statuette, but here he is presumably acknowledging Aphrodite.

On coins of Nicaea in Bithynia the lovers are shown riding in a biga accompanied, appropriately enough, by Eros.
* Nicaea in Bithynia, coins of Julia Domna and Caracalla (on FORVM, not illustrated here). These are variants of a medallion-sized coin of Antoninus Pius, in which it is Tyche, however, who is riding in the chariot with Dionysus (RPC IV, 7992).

Æ 27, 7 h, 11.40 g. [Obv. IOYΛIA AYΓOYCTA. Draped bust r.] Rev. NIKAIEΩN. Dionysus and Ariadne riding r. in a biga of centaurs led by a satyr; Eros, standing on the back of one of the centaurs, faces them.


Similar (Photo courtesy of Lübke & Wiedemann KG).

Here is a Hadrianic sarcophagus cover from Rome with a similar motif, though the wagon is drawn by panthers, not centaurs.

On coins of Maeonia in Lydia, Dionysus is shown with or without Ariadne, and riding in a biga of panthers. 

* Maeonia in Lydia, coins (not illustrated) of Septimius Severus (without Ariadne), and of Trajan Decius (with Ariadne, biga from l. to r.).
The coin of Severus is as follows: 25.13 g, 12 h. Obv. AY KAI Λ CЄΠ CEΟ ΥΗΡΟC. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Septimius Severus r. Rev. ΜΑΙΟΝΩΝ. Dionysus, holding thyrsus and reins, in chariot l. drawn by two panthers and guided by Eros; above, maenad left playing tambourine; in exergue, EΠΙ ∆ΑΜΑΒ CΑΒE INIANOY APX ATOB.


* On this medallion of Marcus Aurelius from Rome, Bacchus is riding alone in a biga of centaurs.


Nicaea / Antoninus Pius
Reference: RPC IV, 7992
Rarity: RRR

Nicaea / Julia Domna
Reference: Waddington, Recueil général, 372 
Rarity: RR

Nicaea / Caracalla
Previously unpublished?
Rarity: RRR

Maeonia / Septimius Severus
Reference: SNG von Aulock 8236
Rarity: RRR

Maeonia / Trajan Decius
Reference: RPC IX, 721
Rarity: RR

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