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Numismatica Ars Classica > Auction 114Auction date: 6 May 2019
Lot number: 690

Lot description:

The Roman Empire

Antinous, favourite of Hadrian. Medallion, Smyrna Ioniae after 130, Æ 41.95 g. ANTINOOC HPΩC Bare head l. Rev. ΠOΛEMΩN ANEΘHKE – CMVPNAIOIC Goat standing r.; in field r., caduceus. Blum p. 40, 4 and pl. II, 8 (this obverse die).
Very rare and in extraordinary condition for the issue, undoubtedly one of the finest
coins of Antinous in existence. An elegant portrait of excellent style and
a superb untouched olive green patina. Good extremely fine
Ex Egger XLVI, 1914, Prowe 1038 and Tkalec 28 October 1994, 208 sales.
In AD 123, a Bithynian youth from Claudiopolis named Antinous received the chance of a lifetime. He was brought to the attention of Hadrian on one of his many travels and sent to Rome for an education. In the three years after AD 125, the year Hadrian returned to Rome from the East, he developed a relationship with Antinous, who quickly became his favourite. The relationship appears to have come from mutual affection since there is no evidence that Antinous ever tried to parlay his closeness to the emperor into wealth or political power and Hadrian reportedly considered the youth to be intelligent and wise. Together the Emperor and his young lover embarked on a new tour of the Greek East in AD 128. In the two years that followed, they travelled through Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, and North Africa, arriving in Alexandria in August, AD 130. Then it would seem that the relationship began to falter. It has been pointed out that by this time Antinous was becoming a young man and therefore losing the youthful attraction to Hadrian that he had once had. In addition, members of the elite were beginning to snicker at the relationship. The Emperor, Antinous and the imperial retinue began a relaxed cruise down the Nile River in October, but shortly after a stop at Hermopolis Magna horror struck. Antinous fell into the river and drowned. It was widely rumoured that Hadrian killed him, although accident or suicide seem equally possible, if not more plausible, explanations for the young man's untimely death. Devastated by the death of Antinous, Hadrian ordered his deification and founded the city of Antinopolis on the banks of the Nile near the spot where he died. Often syncretized with Greek Hermes or Dionysus, Hadrian used the cult of Antinous to foster his philhellenic and panhellenic aspirations as he continued his tour of the East in AD 131. By the end of his reign there were temples of Antinous in 28 cities and evidence for his worship in 70. However, unlike the official imperial cult, the cults of Antinous varied in importance and quality depending on the city and region in which they are found. The present medallion honouring Antinous is interesting because the obverse type depicting the youth clearly describes him as a hero, a status that entailed a lesser form of worship than that normally given to a full god. On the other hand, the goat and caduceus on the reverse indicates his association with Hermes, who was, unquestionably, an Olympian god. The reverse legend reports that the medallion was produced by a certain Polemon as a dedication. Presumably Polemon provided the metal and obtained the dies for the issue.

Estimate: 80000 CHF