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Hermias, Boy on a Dolphin


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Iasos, view of the agora, by Dosseman CC BY-SA 4.0

"Hegesidemus writes that in the same city of Iasus another boy also, named Hermias, while riding across the sea in the same manner lost his life in the waves of a sudden storm, but was brought back to the shore, and the dolphin confessing itself the cause of his death did not return out to sea and expired on dry land." -Piny the Elder, IX.VIII.27-28

Plutarch mentions the minting of coins in memory of this story:

"And the goodwill and friendship of the dolphin for the lad of Iasusa was thought by reason of its greatness to be true love. For it used to swim and play with him during the day, allowing itself to be touched; and when the boy mounted upon its back, it was not reluctant, but used to carry him with pleasure wherever he directed it to go, while all the inhabitants of Iasus flocked to the shore each time this happened. Once a violent storm of rain and hail occurred and the boy slipped off and was drowned. The dolphin took the body and threw both it and itself together on the land and would not leave until it too had died, thinking it right to share a death for which it imagined that it shared the responsibility. And in memory of this calamity the inhabitants of Iasus have minted their coins with the figure of a boy riding a dolphin." -Plutarch, Moralia, 984.E, Whether Land or Sea Animals Are Cleverer

This coin recalls the death of the boy, Hermias, and his friend, the grief stricken dolphin.
Karia, Iasos, Æ 19mm, 6.4g, circa 200-150 BC, Eupolemos, magistrate
Obv: Jugate heads right of Apollo, laureate, and Artemis to right; behind, dolphin swimming downwards
Rev: Hermias on the back of the dolphin heading right; IAΣΕΩΝ across upper fields, star and ΕΥΠΟΛΕΜΟΣ below
Ref: SNG von Aulock 8096; SNG Copenhagen 415
Where is Iasos? south west edge of modern Turkey.

Then one comes to Iasus, which lies on an island close to the mainland. It has a harbor; and the people gain most of their livelihood from the sea, for the sea here is well supplied with fish, but the soil of the country is rather poor. Indeed, people fabricate stories of this kind in regard to Iasus: When a citharoede (chitarra player / singer)  was giving a recital, the people all listened for a time, but when the bell that announced the sale of fish rang, they all left him and went away to the fish market, except one man who was hard of hearing. -Strabo, Geography, 14.2.21

Modified image from Public Domain source on wikiwand.
There is a choral composition by Fazil Say that recounts the story:
Post your coins of Iasos or coins with Dophin riders - or anything else you find interesting or entertaining.
Edited by Sulla80
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  • Sulla80 changed the title to Hermias, Boy on a Dolphin

Nice RR winged boy/cupid & dolphins, OJ & JdmKY...this Dolphin Rider from Tarentum is a happier story.  Taras, son of Poseidon and the nymph Satyria, falls from his ship during a storm, and is rescued by a dolphin. He establishes in these shores, Tarentum, the city that is named after him.


Calabria, Tarentum AR Nomos. Circa 330-325 BC.

Obv: Nude youth on horse prancing to right, holding rein and crowning horse with wreath; above, Nike flying to right, crowning youth with open wreath; ΣIM below

Rev: Taras astride dolphin to left, holding kantharos and cradling trident with left arm; |-HP and waves below, [TAPAΣ] behind

Ref: Fischer-Bossert Group 62, 789 (V309/R611); Vlasto 505; HN Italy 886. 7.78g, 21mm, 1h.

Edited by Sulla80
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Great post, @Sulla80, with a myth that's entirely new to me. 

I have three dolphin-rider coins, one Roman Republican and two from Tarentum.  I think the word that best describes the dolphins' expressions on the first two is "disgruntled."

Roman Republic, L Lucretius Trio, AR Denarius, 76 BCE. Obv. Laureate head of Neptune right, IIIIXXX [34?] above and trident behind/ Rev. Cupid (or Infant Genius) on dolphin right; L LVCRETIVS TRIO. Crawford 390/2, Sydenham 784, RSC I Lucretia 3, Sear RCV I 322 (ill.), Harlan, RRM I Ch. 16 at pp. 98, 100-103 [Michael Harlan, Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins, 81 BCE-64 BCE (Vol. I) (2012)], BMCRR Rome 3247. 19 mm., 3.9 g. 


Tarentum, Calabria. AR Nomos (didrachm), ca. 302-280 BCE. Magistrates Sa.., Arethon and Cas-. Obv. Youth on horseback right, crowning horse with wreath; magistrates' names: ΣA to left and AΡE/ΘΩN in two lines below/ Rev. TAΡAΣ, Phalanthos astride dolphin left, holding tripod, CAΣ below. Vlasto 666 [Ravel, O.E., Descriptive Catalogue of the Collection of Tarentine Coins formed by M.P. Vlasto (London, 1947, reprinted 1977)]; HN Italy 957 [Rutter, N.K., ed., Historia Numorum Italy (London, 2001)]; SNG ANS 1046 [Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, USA, The Collection of the American Numismatic Society, Part 1: Etruria - Calabria (New York 1969)]. 23 mm., 7.86 g.


Tarentum, Calabria. AR Nomos, ca. 272-240 BCE. Magistrates Sy… and Lykinos. Obv. Nude youth on horse advancing to left, crowning horse with wreath held in right hand, holding reins in left hand; to right, ΣΥ; below horse, ΛΥΚΙ/ΝΟΣ in two lines / Rev. Phalanthos [not “Taras”; see https://coinsweekly.com/and-this-is-where-aristotle-was-wrong/] astride dolphin to left, his back half-turned to viewer, brandishing trident held in right hand, chlamys draped over left arm; ΤΑ-ΡΑΣ beneath dolphin; in right field, owl standing to left, head facing.. Vlasto 836-841 [all same type] at p. 95 & Pl. XXVII ; HN Italy 1025 . 19.5 mm., 6.47 g, 12 h. (“Reduced standard” compared to larger size of earlier coins, beginning after arrival of Pyrrhus in Italy ca. 280 BCE.) Purchased at Nomos Obolos Auction 22, 6 March 2022, Lot 39.


Edited by DonnaML
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Nice bronze! As you know, nice silver issues go very high and it's tough to get a bronze with a clear dolphin + rider, but yours is a very nice one.

I've read several variants of the Hermias story. In one, his mother won't let him out to play  in the sea but he finally convinces her to go to the beach, where he goes missing. They search for him for days and much later a fisherman sees him riding a dolphin. When they reach the shore, both are dead.

In another version, the dolphin actually falls in love with the boy and they start playing together, when the dolphin's spike accidentally pierces the boy and he dies, so the dolphin washes himself up on shore too in despair.

Here's my Iasos. It's an earlier one sans dolphin, which makes me wonder whether the story itself originated in the 3rd century BCE, shortly before this coin was minted.


Caria, Iasos
c. 4th-3rd century BCE
Æ 8mm, 1.02g, 12h
Laureate head of Apollo facing slightly l.
R/ Head of nymph r., hair in sakkos; prawn to r.
Ashton, The pre-imperial coinage of Iasos, NC 167 (2007), p. 53, pl. 7, 17-19

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Interesting article as always @Sulla80.


Calabria, Tarentum
AR Nomos, Tarentum mint, struck 280-272 BC (Pyrrhic War issue) 
Dia.: 20.4 mm
Wt.: 6.4 g
Obv.: Helmeted warrior on horseback l., holding two spears and round shield decorated with star. ΖΩ in right field, ΑΠΟΛΛΩ below
Rev.: ΤΑΡΑΣ, Taras riding dolphin l., holding distaff and bunch of grapes. ΑΝΘ in right field
Ref.: Vlasto 790

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  • 3 months later...

Here's an unusual dolphin rider from Corinth. This was sold as a rare variety from Taras, which I knew wasn't true. But I was fascinated to find out what it really was, and finally nailed it down. Not Taras, not even completely Greek...

~ Peter Hope 


Corinth, Corinthia

14-37 AD (Reign of Tiberius)
AE Semis (14mm, 3.03g)
O: Pegasus flying right.
R: Melikertes naked, swimming with dolphin left, left hand holding dorsal fin.
Amandry XVI63


Edited by Phil Anthos
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Very interesting. I did not know about this particular dolphin rider. I've only got one, a type shared a few other times in this thread(including by @DonnaML whose excellent example shares an obverse die with mine):


Roman Republic AR Denarius(18mm, 3.72 g, 5h). 74 B.C., Rome mint. Laureate head of Neptune right, trident over shoulder; control-mark XXXIIII to upper left. Border of dots/Winged boy(perhaps Palaemon or Cupid) on dolphin speeding right. Below, L•LVCRETI TRIO. Border of dots. Crawford 390/2

Privately purchased from a friend 2 August 2023, ex CNG 100, 7 October 2015, lot 1803, ex R.H. Collection

Edited by red_spork
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  • 2 weeks later...

low grade but quite scarce, I got this just a few months ago... 

Taras, Calabria

281-235 BC
AR Hemiobol (8mm, 0.28g)
O: Scallop shell with five teeth.
R: Winged Eros riding dolphin left, holding kantharos; ΦI below. 
Vlasto 1606-07; SNG France 2181

~ Peter 



Edited by Phil Anthos
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