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The Robbery of Persephone - a Commodus unique coin from Verbe (Pisidia)


Prieure de Sion

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I am overjoyed this week to acquire this large and heavy Commodus bronze with the insanely great mythical motif "Robbery of Persephone". Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to find out much about the ancient city of "Verbe".

The coin was auctioned in 2020 at Leu Numismatik, then in 2022 at CNG and now the coin is in my possession. From the looks of it, it is the only specimen. I was unable to find another copy. Not at any museum, not at any auction and not in any other reference catalogue.

Yesterday I was allowed (joy! My second coin at RPC) to publish my Commodus coin at RPC:
https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/4/17565 

 

But this was not the only thing that fascinated me. The reverse side with Hades and Persephone and the myth behind it - the connection with Demeter and the seasons - I find mythologically very interesting.

In Greek mythology, Hades refers to the ruler of the underworld. Even before that, however, the term was used for the underworld as a place. The realm (of Hades) therefore existed before its king. In non-Christian cultic contexts, however, the word always refers to the deity, not the underworld. As king over the dead and the subterranean realms, he was early identified both with Plutos, the god of (subterranean) riches, and with the underworld god Pluton. 
 
Hades is the "Lord of the Realm of the Dead", the stern, implacable god hated by gods and men, from whose eerie, desolate realm there is no return. He leaves his realm only very rarely, for example when he steals Persephone. Wounded in the shoulder by an arrow from Heros, he hurried to Olympus to be healed by Paian. Hades' vehicle is a quadriga drawn by black steeds. His four black horses are called Aethon, Alastor (also called Abaster), Nykteus and Orphnaios. Pictorially represented on this bronze by Hades robbing Persephone in the quadriga and the attached Eros.
 
The central myth of the "Robbery of Persephone" first appears in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. It is reported that Hades, the god of the underworld and brother of Zeus, fell in love with Kore. He therefore asked Zeus for Kore as his wife. Knowing that Kore would not voluntarily go to the sunless underworld, Zeus neither agreed nor refused. Hades interpreted this as consent. As Kore was picking flowers on the plain of Nysa, Hades rose from the underworld and carried Kore off on his team. Her cries for help were ignored by Zeus. Kore, now called Persephone, resigned herself to her fate. Meanwhile, her mother Demeter wandered about in despair and in her grief prevented all plants from growing, which forced Zeus to intervene, as there was a danger that the whole world would perish from hunger. Finally, an agreement was reached that Persephone would only spend part of the year in the underworld. Accordingly, winter occurs when Kore reigns as Persephone in the underworld and summer when Kore lives with her mother. The meaning of the myth is an allegorical representation of the cycle of the seasons. This is pictured on the coin by the overturned Kalathos with flowers - Persephone now descends with Hades and winter approaches.

 

commodusverbe.png.2d70bd37976512a9b0771c9a3d19d3d8.png

Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus
Bronze of the Roman Imperial Period 180/192 AD; Material: AE; Diameter: 35mm; Weight: 34.85g; Mint: Verbe, Pisidia; Reference: RPC IV.3 17565; Rare: Unique; Provenance: CNG Classical Numismatics Lancaster, USA (Auction 120, Lot 632); Provenance: Leu Numismatik Winterthur, Switzerland (Auktion 14, Lot 1022); Pedigree: -; Obverse: Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Commodus to right, seen from behind; Inscription: [AV KAI KOMMOΔOC] ANTΩNЄINOC; Translate: Autokrator Kaisaros Kommodos Antoneinos (Imperator Caesar Commodus Antoninus); Reverse: Hades in quadriga to right, holding scepter and carrying off Persephone; above, small Eros flying right, holding torch and guiding the horses' reins; below, overturned kalathos containing flowers; Inscription: OYЄPBIANΩN; Translate: Overbianon (City of Verbe)

 

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This is my only coin depicting the abduction of Persephone. Unfortunately, the flans for this issue are typically too small for the reverse design and Pluto and Persephone are off the flan.
Soaemias Sebaste Abduction of Persephone.jpg
Julia Soaemias, AD 218-222
Roman provincial Æ 21.4 mm, 10.97 g
Samaria, Sebaste, AD 218-222
Obv: SVAMIAS AVGVSTA SEB, bare-headed and draped bust right
Rev: COL L SEBAS-TE, Hades in galloping quadriga right abducting Persephone, Eros above
Refs: Rosenberger 34; BMC 18.

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Beautiful coin  with a stunning reverse, but you've got to admire the beauty of the portrait.

Here is my only coin with Persephone - unfortunately not a great story on it ... I bought it to have Agrippina II in my collection and I was happy when I found out the reverse character is Persephone. However, I wouldn't have guessed without reading the description. 

image.png.6426204adf9f77f3a009d6aa880ef731.png

Phrygia. Aizanis. Agrippina II AD 50-59.

Bronze Æ

17 mm, 2,91 g

ΑΓΡΙΠΠΙΝΑΝ ϹƐΒΑϹΤΗΝ, draped bust of Agrippina II, right / ΑΙΖΑΝΙΤΩΝ,              draped bust of Persephone with ears of corn before

RPC I, 3102; BMC 91, Cop 91

Edited by ambr0zie
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28 minutes ago, Spaniard said:

@Prieure de Sion...That's a big chunk of Bronze!...Really enjoyed the write up Thanks...The fabric of the coin seems strange to me but as there are no other examples? Congrats on a unique coin.

There are some types with Commodus and Hades / Persephone / Quadriga - but from other city’s. And there some coins from Commodus and Verbe - but not with this Reverse.

So - actually - this was the only example. Leu experts search 2020 for other examples and don’t find any. And in this 3 years to 2023 - there are no new informations about other pieces. So the chance is high it was unique. Or minimum extremely fine. 
 

 

If anyone some more coins with Hades and / or Persephone - please let us see… 

 

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On 2/26/2023 at 4:46 PM, Roman Collector said:

This is my only coin depicting the abduction of Persephone. Unfortunately, the flans for this issue are typically too small for the reverse design and Pluto and Persephone are off the flan.

I have a better centered example of this reverse, which was produced with three obverse types: Elagabalus, Julia Soaemis and Julia Maesa. Mine is Maesa:

229927.jpg.b1e107b888550c3ef7316b03fc1e2c10.jpg

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