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Roma Numismatics Ltd > Auction XVIAuction date: 26 September 2018
Lot number: 87

Lot description:


Etruria, Vulci AR Didrachm. 5th - 4th century BC. Winged Metus running to left, head facing, holding serpent in each hand / Cartwheel with long crossbar supported by two struts. EC I, 2.4 (O3/R2); HN Italy 207 (Volci?); Fiorelli collection, Naples 1866, p. 15 (= Sambon 12.2) 11.48g, 26mm, 1 or 7h.

Good Extremely Fine. Extremely Rare; one of five examples known, of which this is the only example in private hands, and the second example recorded of this particular die combination which has never appeared in a public sale, otherwise known only from the Naples example.

From the collection of a Swiss Etruscologist;
Ex Italo Vecchi Collection;
Privately purchased from a European collector.

The only source of information we have for Metus (literally 'guardian or protectress'), the Etruscan name for the Greek Medusa, is derived from a famous mirror in Chiusi (see illustration below) which depicts her as an attractive winged woman in Hellenistic style, bare to the waist and seated in a posture of lament and apprehension. Other than in her bearing, the depction of Metus is iconographically no different to that of Nike, and indeed the significance of the scene and the mirror itself might be overlooked, but for the fact that Metus is specifically named by an inscription. That Metus is equated with the Greek Medusa is also certain, since she appears on the mirror alongside the other two figures who are also explicitly named: Menvra (Minerva) and Pherse (Perseus), who holds a curved blade and is apparently being instructed to cut off the head of Metus (cf. G. & L. Bonfante, The Etruscan Language, Manchester 2002 p. 159). The name Metus passed into Latin as a noun meaning fear, apprehension or dread - and we may certainly understand why. The depiction of a horrific divine being, rendered as a late archaic style running Gorgon is obviously apotropaic, as we should understand many of the Etruscan types to be. It is furthermore very rare in numismatic iconography. While the head of the gorgon Medusa is a frequently encountered numismatic type, utilised on the coinage of a great many Greek cities for similarly apotropaic reasons, the only other such similar portrayal as employed here in complete form with both wings and body seems to be from an uncertain mint in Caria in the 5th century BC (cf. Traité II 1606, pl. 145, 1 = de Luynes 275) which places the gorgon's head on a swastika of wings, thus implying a kneeling-running connotation without actually showing one.

Estimate: 50000 GBP