The Pythian Games
THRACE, Philippopolis. Caracalla.
|Triton XX, Lot: 446. Estimate $2000.
Sold for $2000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
AD 198-217. Æ Medallion (40mm, 37.96 g, 6h). Struck AD 214. AVT K M AVP CEVH ANTΩNEINOC, laureate heroic-style bust left, seen from behind, wearing aegis / KOINON ΘPAKΩN AΛE-ZANΔΡIA EN ΦIΛI/(ΠΠ)OΠO, discobolus standing left, holding [three balls] and disc; ΠV-ΘIA across field. Varbanov 1433 (R8 – same dies as illustration); SNG Copenhagen 780 (same dies); BMC 36 var. or corr. (bust type). VF, green patina, a few cleaning marks. Artistic bust type. Rare and interesting athletic type.
Ex Triton XVI (7 January 2013), lot 687.
The interesting series of medallions celebrating the Pythian Games in Philippopolis inform us that the commune of Thracians had organized the games in honor of the emperor, no doubt in AD 214 during his journey through Thrace on his way to campaign against the Parthians. To further flatter the emperor (that is, if he himself was not responsible for this change), the games were now titled “Alexandrian” after Alexander the Great, with whom Caracalla was increasingly identifying himself. The historian Herodian (8.1.1-2) provides us with a glimpse of the emperor’s obsession with Alexander at precisely this time:
Caracalla, after attending to matters in the garrison camps along the Danube river, went down into Thrace at the Macedonian border, and immediately he became Alexander the Great. To revive the memory of the Macedonian in every possible way, he ordered statues and paintings of his hero to be put on public display in all cities. He filled the Capitol, the rest of the temples, indeed, all Rome, with statues and paintings designed to suggest that he was a second Alexander.
At times we saw ridiculous portraits, statues with one body which had on each side of a single head the faces of Alexander and the emperor. Caracalla himself went about in Macedonian dress, affecting especially the broad sun hat and short boots. He enrolled picked youths in a unit which he labeled his Macedonian phalanx; its officers bore the names of Alexander's generals.