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Leu Numismatik AG
Auction 1  25 Oct 2017
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Lot 119

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Estimate: 25000 CHF
Price realized: 38000 CHF

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LYDIA. Sardis. Antinoüs, died 130. Medallion (Bronze, 34 mm, 21.10 g, 6 h), P. Cornelius Cornutus, strategos, 131. ANTINOOC HPΩC - ЄΠIΦANHC Bare-headed, heroic nude three-quarter bust of Antinoüs to right. Rev. CTP Π KOPNH KOPN-O[T]OY CAPΔIANΩN Dionysos, nude but for chlamys draped over his right shoulder, standing front, head to left, holding kantharos in his right hand and filleted thyrsos with his left; at feet to left, forepart of panther left, raising right forepaw and looking back. Unpublished and unique, an issue of tremendous historical importance and of exceptional beauty. Attractive natural olive-green patina and with an enchanting portrait of magnificent style. An extraordinary piece, undoubtedly among the finest and most interesting medallions of Antinoos known. The reverse struck very slightly off center and with some flatness near the edge, otherwise, good very fine.


The emergence of a new medallion of Antinoüs is, to say the least, very exciting. Hadrian's favorite, a juvenile born in 110-112 near the city of Bithynion-Klaudiopolis, met the emperor in the early 120s and accompanied him on his journey through Greece, Asia and Egypt in 128-130. His early death in the Nile in October 130 is surrounded by legends: although possibly an accident, rumours have it that Antinoüs committed sacrificial suicide, believing that this may help prolonging the life of his patron, or that he was assassinated by Hadrian's jealous wife Sabina. The emperor, grieving over the loss of his beloved companion, ordered the founding of the eponymous city Antinoopolis at the site of his death and had him deified, becoming a hero with his own priesthood. The popularity of this cult, which spread quickly through the Greek East, is attested not only by many statues - more than a hundred have survived - and honorary games, but also by a substantial number of Poleis striking coins in Antinoüs' name. This coinage is of great interest, as it offers evidence of local forms of worship of the new hero. In Kios, Antinoüs' was equated with Pan (ΠANI ANTINOΩ), in Corinth with Hermes and Bellerophon, Ankyra and Nikopolis praise him as the deified Antinoüs (ANTINOOΣ ΘΕΩΣ or ANTINOON ΘΕΩN) while medallions from Bithynion-Klaudiopolis bear the legend ANTINOON ΘΕΩN H ΠATPIC ('the native town honors the deified Antinoüs'), showing the hero as Hermes Nomios, the Hermes of the herdsman. Perhaps most prominent is the association of Antinoüs with Dionysos, attested in many literary sources, inscriptions and coins (for an excellent article on Antinoüs' and Dionysos, see R. Pudill: Antinoos als Dionysos und Neos Iakchos, in: GN 244 (July 2009), p. 205-215. We would also like to thank Dr. H.-C. von Mosch for his valuable contribution in correspondence with this cataloguer). The emergence of this new medallion with Dionysos on the reverse therefore aligns well with what we know of the early worship of the hero. The importance of this piece - other than it being an unpublished large issue of Sardis for Antinoüs' - lies in the remarkable obverse legend of ANTINOOC HPOC ЄΠIΦANHC: this is a new and hitherto unattested epithet, which translates as 'the manifested hero Antinoüs' and is deeply connected to both Hadrian and the worship of Antinoüs and Dionysos. Not only was Dionysos known as a god of epiphany, an 'arriving' foreigner who manifests himself to his worshippers, we also know from two inscriptions that Hadrian himself was called the 'new Dionysos' in Sardis (IsardBR13, 14). The emperor and Antinoüs had visited the city on their way east in 128, and the young Greek therefore literally was a divine hero who had arrived and manifested himself. The exceptional artistic beauty of this medallion shows that the dies were, perhaps not surprisingly for such an important issue, cut by a master engraver. This was undoubtedly the same artist who also proved responsible for a series of other Antinoüs medallions, and whose journey through the East in the entourage of Hadrian in 131-132 H.-C. von Mosch and L.-A. Klostermeyer have recently reconstructed (H.-C. von Mosch and L.-A. Klostermeyer: Ein Stempelschneider auf Reisen, in: KAIPOΣ, p. 285-325. The bust of Antinoüs on the medallion from Hadrianoutherai, Abb. 12, is virtually identical). The itinerary of the emperor thus, through our medallion, has to be expanded to include the city of Sardis. It is likely that the local strategos Publius Cornelius Cornutus, otherwise only attested on a recently published coin of Hadrian (RPC III online 2402A, as 'Cornutus' only), served as a local benefactor (euergetos) of his polis and bore the considerable costs of issuing a medallion struck from dies crafted by an imperial artist - a form of euergetism that is also attested from other Antinoüs-medallions.
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