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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 7, Lot: 117. Estimate CHF4000. 
Closing Date: Tuesday, 14 May 2013. 
Sold For CHF4500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

MYSIA, Kyzikos. Circa 500-450 BC. Hemihekte (Electrum, 1.42 g). Head of a bearded hero to left, wearing a helmet in the form of the scalp of a sea monster; below, tunny fish. Rev. Quadripartite incuse square. Hurter-Liewald (SNR 2002), 17b. SNG von Aulock 7291 (hekte). Von Fritze -. Very rare. With a remarkable late Archaic head of Herakles. Nearly extremely fine.

Ex Gorny & Mosch 199, 10 October 2011, 348.

The male head on this coin has been given a number of identifications: as Herakles wearing a lion skin (von Aulock), as Perseus (?) wearing a griffin head helmet, and as a hero (Hurter & Liewald). It is, of course, more complicated! The helmet bears a fin-like crest, pointed ears, a flat nose and a rather wide open, rounded mouth. If it were a griffin it would have had to have the usual knob on the forehead and it certainly would not have a flat nose. Now it could possibly be a so-called lion griffin, but such creatures did not have long, pointed ears as this has. In fact, what this helmet seems to be is the scalp of a ketos, a sea monster from Greek mythology: Perseus killed the ketos that was about to devour Andromeda and Herakles killed another one, which was going to eat Hesione. The helmet shape is quite similar to the head of the ketos on the Caeretan hydria in the Niarchos collection (especially the ‘ears’) and, if that is the case, the hero’s full beard probably allows us to identify him as Herakles. Perseus can appear with a beard, but he often does not; at Kyzikos he is shown beardless on von Fritze 65, thus making it most likely that this does not depict him.