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Research Coins: Printed Auction


Perseus Advances on the Sleeping Gorgones

Triton XX, Lot: 455. Estimate $10000.
Sold for $17000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

LYDIA, Daldis. Gordian III. AD 238-244. Æ Medallion (48mm, 60.65 g, 6h). L. Aur. Hephaestionos, principal archon for the second time. AVT K • M ANT ΓOPΔIAN[OC], laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / Є–Π • Λ • AVP H–ΦAICTIΩNOC APX A T B, ΔAΛΔIAN/ΩN, Perseus advancing left, approaching the three Gorgon sisters (Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa) sleeping below a tree; winged Hypnos stands behind them; to upper left, Apollo Citharoedus within tetrastyle temple; to lower left, horse standing left, head right. RPC VII.1, 200 (A1/R1); Kraft pl. 45, 57 (same dies). Near EF, brown and green patina, very minor doubling. A beautifully composed and highly enigmatic mythological scene. Extremely rare and exceptional.

Four specimens are noted in RPC, all from the same dies as our massive medallion. This fifth example is the only one in private hands, the others being in Paris (RPC VII.1, pl. 17, 200), Berlin (two specimens, one of which is plated in Kraft), and Boston (NFA XII, lot 389). Our piece is the finest known, far superior to the published examples.

Called the “most-renowned of men” by Homer, Perseus is best known today for his slaying of the Gorgon Medusa. The central scene depicts the Gorgones reclining below a tree, asleep, as the figure of Hypnos makes clear, while Perseus advances on them. The Gorgones are variously described in ancient accounts, but are often said to have had serpents for hair, golden wings, brass claws, and scale-like skin. The great tragedian Aeschylus tells us that they shared one eye, and it was during the shuffling of this organ that Perseus decided to strike, slaying Medusa, the only mortal of the three sisters.

As noted in Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (p. 347), however, the current scene is “unusual and without known parallels.” The temple of Apollo was a major religious center of Daldis. It is uncertain if the temple is merely included as a kind of civic badge, or if it reflects a local tradition that the events of the story occurred in the vicinity of Daldis (RPC p. 149), with this medallion possibly serving as an abbreviated copy of a well-known, though now lost, work of art at Daldis.