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Stack's (pre-Feb 2011) > Coin Galleries April 2010Auction date: 28 April 2010
Lot number: 239

Lot description:

TROAS. Ilium. Marcus Aurelius, A.D. 161-180.

Æ 34 mm. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Marcus Aurelius right. Rv. Poseidon advancing right, holding trident and applying mortar to brick held by Apollo standing left, foot resting on large stone block and holding laurel branch; in the background, the battlemented walls of Troy. 26.54 grams. Bellinger -. SNG Copenhagen -. SNG von Aulock -. SNG Hunterian -. SNG Leypold -. SNG Righetti -. BMC -. Price & Trell -. Seemingly unpublished, and a most interesting type. Rough red-brown patina, pit on reverse, and a couple of very light scratches. Nearly Very Fine. (800-1,000)

The remarkable and apparently unpublished reverse type belongs to a thematic group of coins struck at Ilium under Marcus Aurelius depicting scenes related to the mythological history of Troy and its relationship with Rome. Here we have a depiction of the gods Poseidon (on the left) and Apollo (on the right) tasked with erecting the fortification walls of Troy for king Laomedon. Zeus had forced the two deities to serve the Trojan king as day laborers in punishment for a failed revolt against his authority. They built magnificent walls for the new city, but upon completion Laomedon refused to pay them their promised wages, thereby calling down a curse on Troy that ended in its destruction at the end of the Trojan War of Homeric epic. On the coin, Apollo, indicated in part by the laurel branch that he carries, rests his foot on a large stone block (indicated by very faint linear outline) while holding out what appears to be a brick. Poseidon, his coworker, is identified by his trident and reaches toward the brick, apparently in order to apply the mortar. He seems to hold a tool for this purpose, but it is difficult to be certain. In the background the walls of Troy and its main gate rise majestically. It is tempting to think that this reverse type may reflect some lost Hellenistic painting, for similar iconographic elements also appear in a fresco of the building of Troy found in the House of Siricus in Pompeii. Regardless, it is an extremely rare depiction of gods with blue-collar jobs.

From the Estate of Cornelius C. Vermeule.