Sunday, March 13, 2011

Type 35: Eros with Crouching Aphrodite

Erotes are often shown helping ladies with their ablutions, as here, for instance, on an Attic flask (around 400 B.C.), where the lady is not a goddess but a nymph.

But there is an interesting story behind the type of the crouching Aphrodite, attended by Erotes at her bath. King Nicomedes I of Bithynia (c. 279-255 B.C.) famously failed in his efforts to obtain the Cnidian Aphrodite of Praxiteles (see comments under Type 32) for his new capital city of Nicomedia. He supposedly even offered to pay off the whole national debt of Cnidus in return for the statue, but the Cnidians proudly refused. Instead of the Cnidia, he therefore made do with a fine new statue of Aphrodite in bronze, attended by one or more Erotes as she crouches at her bath, by the local sculptor Doidalsas. The motif was hugely popular, and has survived in numerous copies and variants (illustrated below, from l. to r.: a group from Naples, with a copper-plate engraving, 1881, of the same item, and a crouching Aphrodite—in a slightly different pose, and without Eros—from the Łazienki Palace in Warsaw).
So the traditional story. The details have been called into question by some art historians, who place the original statue rather later, but what speaks in favour of the Bithynian connection at least is the fact that the motif appears in numismatics exclusively on coins of the Black Sea coast cities of Amisus in Pontus (without Erotes); Germanicopolis in Paphlagonia; and Bithynium-Claudiopolis (without Erotes), Nicaea and (possibly) Cius in Bithynia. The coin of Caracalla in Serdica listed by Bernhart (307) as being of this type actually shows the Three Graces (= Varbanov 2467).

* Germanicopolis in Paphlagonia, coins of Julia Domna, with a single Eros standing behind Aphrodite, who has a cloth over her l. thigh, and stroking (oiling or cleaning?) her back—a pose very similar to that in the group from Naples.

Æ 29, 1 h, 15.06 g. Obv.  ΙΟΥΛ ΔΟΜΝΑ CΕΒΑC. Draped bust r. Rev. ΓΕΡΜΑΝΙΚΟΠΟΛΕΩC ΕCΤΙΑC, in exergue ΘΕΩN. As described above.


Æ 29. Similar, from the same reverse die (Illustration from Bernhart).

 * Cius in Bithynia, a coin (Æ 37) of Julia Domna mentioned in a footnote by Waddington (Recueil général, p.321) with reference to Mionnet, but unseen. Not listed by Bernhart.

* Nicaea in Bithynia, coins of Severus Alexander, with torch-bearing Erotes behind and in front of Aphrodite, who has a cloth over her l. thigh and whose head is turned to admire herself in the mirror held by the Eros standing behind her.

Æ 21, 7 h, 4.13 g. Obv.  M AYP CEVH AΛEΞANΔPOC AVΓ. Laureate head r. Rev. NIKAIE, in exergue ΩN. As described above.

Æ 21, 3.50 g. Similar.

Æ 19, 2 h, 3.51 g. Similar.


Germanicopolis / Julia Domna
References: Waddington, Recueil général, 35; Imhoof-Blumer, Griechische Münzen, 104; Bernhart, Aphrodite, 305; Bricault/Delrieux, Gangra-Germanicopolis, GG/71
Rarity: R

Cius / Julia Domna [?]
Reference: Waddington, Recueil général, p.321, footnote
Rarity: RRR (if genuine)
Nicaea / Severus Alexander
References: Waddington, Recueil général, 588; Bernhart, Aphrodite, 306
Rarity: Scarce

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