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How to kill a gorgon while keeping your sneakers clean: Perseus and the mystery fisherman


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One of the many treats of collecting ancients is that you may get a coin for one reason and then fall down a rabbit hole, that turns into a well, and then a hole in some old man's sock, that then transforms into luge you slip down that makes you love your new coin for a completely different reason. 

Take this holy coin I bought primarily on account of the erosion. It doesn't have any signs that it was caused by BD. Was the flan struck with air bubbles? What caused it?


CILICIA, Tarsus. Trajan Decius. AD 249-251. Æ (34mm, 21.7 g, 6h). Radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind; П П across field / Fisherman (Dictys or King Polydectes?) standing right, holding long pole from which is suspended a basket over shoulder, facing Perseus standing left, holding head of Medusa and harpa. SNG France 1759-60 (same dies); SNG Levante -. Near VF, brown surfaces.

But that's not even why I'm writing on this coin. 

I'm writing about the weird and wild reverse. I need to pause to give a big shot out here to my bro-zie @ambr0zie who nailed the identity of this rarely seen coin in about one minute with his amazing eye for provincial mints and their artistic styles. I initially thought Perseus harpa was Zeus holding a thunderbolt🥸

A little bit about Perseus: Though, Zeus was his father. A simple fisherman Dictys and his wife helped raise and take care of Perseus and his mother when they landed on Seriphos.


After leaving home Perseus  and mom, Danae, "sailed" to Seriphos in a chest:


(Perseus, look out for that bird that's shitting directly above you!)

Dictys raised Perseus just as if he was his own son. Despite not getting the hot sexin from Danae.  

Dictys brother, King Polydectes, on the other hand wanted that hot loving from Danae in a BAAAAD way.


(Hot mom alert!)

But Perseus was always getting in the way. Leaving the king practically no other option than to send Perseus to the impossible and surely fatal task of retrieving the severed head of the gorgon, Medusa. 


Yadda, yadda, things you already know... With help from Athena, and using his shield as a mirror, so as not to look into the frosty the stone-man making eyes of the once beautiful wretch, Perseus does exactly what he is tasked.

More on that old story here,  



Pontos. Amisos c 85-65 BC.

Bronze Æ, 30mm., 18,18g.

Helmeted head of Athena right,

helmet decorated with griffin /

AMIΣOY Perseus standing holding

harpa and head of Medusa, at feet,

body of Medusa, monograms to

both sides.VF Sea 1166-76


Takes the head back to turn King Polydectes and pals to stone.


(And look at those shiny sneakers, eh)


Philip V (221-179 BC). Tetradrachm. Uncertain Macedonian mint.

Obv: Head of Perseus left, wearing winged helmet surmounted by griffin's head; harpa in background; all in the centre of Macedonian shield.


Club right between legend in two lines; all within wreath right.

SNG München 1125; HGC 3.1, 1056.

Condition: Fine.

Weight: 16.91 g.

Diameter: 30 mm. Purchased from Numismatik Naumann November 2021


Perseus then gives the kingdom to dad, Dictys. And alls well that ends in multiple murders and severed body parts. 

So then, back to the coin's reverse. Not one description that I found ventures a guess as to whom Perseus is facing, they just say fisherman. I have to assume it's daddy Dictys. But why show the head of snakes on the brain Medusa to him? Or is he holding the head low to avoid getting dad stoned? Could the king have been a fisherman like his brother and is Perseusstoning the king? If so, I can't find any other image if Polydectes as a fisherman. 

A recap of our conundrum;

Who is the fisherman?

Why show dad Medusa's head??

And why couldn't Sir Mixalot lie about liking big butts???

Thanks for sticking with me and please share your coins of Perseus, eroded/holy ancients, Medusa, thoughts and our anything else adding to the discussion. 

Edited by Ryro
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Way cool, @Ryro!!! I have a Trajan Decius from Tarsus but its reverse design isn't nearly as interesting as yours. This old write-up I posted elsewhere will help you understand the inscription on your coin. 

Trajan Decius. AD 249-251.
Roman provincial Æ 32.5 mm, 18.74 g, 6 h.
Cilicia, Tarsus, AD 249-251.
Obv: ΑV ΚΑΙ Γ ΜЄϹ ΚVΙΝ ΔЄΚΙΟϹ ΤΡΑΙΑΝΟϹ, Π Π, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right.
Rev: ΤΑΡϹΟV ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛЄΩϹ Γ Β, Α Μ Κ. Artemis standing right, drawing arrow from quiver and holding bow and arrow; at feet on either side, deer standing left and dog running right with raised paws, head left.
Refs: RPC 1346; SNG Levante 1156 ; SNG France 1754; SNG von Aulock 6065; SNG Cop 33; Ziegler 808.16.33; Lindgren III, 926.


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I am glad I could help! It's simply impossible to allow a coin with enough details without attribution - especially one with a special reverse. 

My example of the popular Amisos


30 mm, 18,30 g.
Pontos, Amisos. Time of Mithradates VI Eupator. Ӕ. Circa 105-90 or 90-85 BC.
Helmeted head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet decorated with Pegasos / AMI - ΣOY - Perseus standing left, holding harpa and head of Medusa, whose decapitated body lies at his feet; monogram to left and right. SNG BM Black Sea 1169-72; HGC 7, 238.

Tarsos provincials are very interesting - they liked BIG, chunky bronzes and their reverses are artistic. 

A Maximinus Thrax with the Three Graces 


Otacilia Severa with Athena reverse 


And of course one cannot forget the older coins, suchs as this one from time of Mazaios 


Or an interesting drachm from Antiochus Euergetes 


My favorite Medusa coin - unfortunately very damaged but with one of the most beautiful depictions of Medusa. 


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Very interesting write-up. I'm afraid my knowledge of the mythology is less than yours, so all I can add are a few gorgons.


Macedon, Neapolis
Circa 375-350 BCE
AR Hemidrachm 1.75g, 13mm, 10h
Facing gorgoneion, with tongue protruding
Head of nymph to right; [N]-E-O-[Π] around; all within incuse.
SNG Copenhagen 227-8; SNG ANS 453; HGC 3.1, 588.
Ex J. Greiff Collection



Boeotia, Koroneia
Circa 400-350 BCE
AR Obol 11 mm, 0.81 g
Boeotian shield
Rev. K (retrograde) - O Gorgon's head facing, of Classical style.
BCD Boiotia 171a (same reverse die). BCD Boiotia II 578 (this coin)
Ex Dr. Paul Peter Urone Collection
Ex BCD Collection
Ex Classical Numismatic Group 2006


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Severus Alexander. 222-235 AD. Tarsos, Cilicia. Æ38 mm, 23.51 gm.  Obv: ANT ...AYP CEV ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟC CEB; Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust, right. Π-Π on either side. Rev: ΑΛΕΞ CΕ ΑΔ.....ΠΑΤΡOΩC(center of field) TAPCEΩ(Ν) in ex. Perseus standing right, holding harpa and small statue of Apollo Lykeios. Before him, the fisherman Dictys, who saved him and raised him from boyhood, standing left, holding fish and basket on either end of a long rod. Like SNG von Aulock 6046, for Gordian III. Roughly similar to SNG France , Cilicia, 1574, and cross-referenced to Waddington "Inventaire Sommaire" 1347 (same coin). BMC__; SNG Cop__. Possibly unpublished.


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Excellent and enjoyable thread, enjoyed that.

Hadrian with reverse of  Perseus holding head of Medusa

RPC Volume: III №: 2958
Reign: Hadrian Persons: Hadrian (Augustus)
City: Tyana  Region: Cappadocia Province: Galatia-Cappadocia
Denomination: Æ (15 mm) 3.80 g. Issue: Year 20 (AD 135/6)
Obverse: ΑΥΤΟ ΚΑ ΤΡ ΑΔΡΙΑΝΟϹ ϹΕΒΑϹΤ; laureate head of Hadrian, right
Reverse: ΤΥΑΝΕΩΝ ΤΩ ΠΡ Τ ΙΕΡ ΑϹ, ΕΤ - Κ (in field); Perseus standing facing, holding head of Medusa and harpa
Reference: Ganschow 1014b Specimens: 10 (Zero in the core collections)


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Great post @Ryro and remarkable coin!


When I read the word “Gorgon” and saw the holes in your coin I couldn’t help but think of the caustic effect alien blood has on metal in the sci-fi movies.

I began to wonder if Gorgon blood could be equally destructive. 😉





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Here is another fisherman coin:


Trajan Decius. AD 249-251. AE33, 18g.

The reverse inscription is TARCOU MHTROPO LEWC / AMK / ΓB.

A M K Γ B is a boast of Tarsos that means "First (A is the Greek numeral one), Greatest, and Most Beautiful city of the three provinces."

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