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Herakles and the Rhyton


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Mysia. Kyzikos.
EL Stater, 450-330 BC.
Herakles, nude kneeling left, holding club in right hand over shoulder, and cradling rhyton in left; in right field tunny. / Quadripartite Incuse Square. Very Rare. von Fritze 209. SNG BnF 342. BMFA 1528. Jameson 2209.
The obverse is a part of a long series of coins from Kyzikos depicting a variety of kneeling figures. Within this visual framework, Herakles is a popular recurring figure, being depicted with different objects (e.g. a bow). Here, he holds a Rhyton, a relatively obscure attribute sometimes associated with Herakles. He is related to the origin myth of the Cornucopia, also known as the horn of plenty, a special instance of the Rhyton containing overflowing produce, flowers, and nuts. Herakles wanted Deïanira's hand in marriage, and fought with the river god of the largest river in Greece Achelous for the right to marry her. River gods are classically represented as man faced bulls (see: Gela tetradrachms or Italian Didrachms), which are horned. In the myth, during the course of the wrestling match, Herakles ripped off one of Achelous' horns, which Achelous retrieved by trading for with the a horn from Amalthea, which is the famous horn of plenty. In Ovid's version of the myth, instead of having the horn be exchanged, Naiads filled it with foodstuffs and turned Achelous' horn directly into the Cornucopia.
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