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Research Coins: Feature Auction

 
10700145

A Unique Depiction of the Barge of Sarapis

Triton XXI, Lot: 145. Estimate $2000.
Sold for $4750. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (32mm, 21.96 g, 12h). Dated RY 21 (AD 157/158). AY TI AI A∆ (sic) ANTωNINOC C [ЄB ЄY], laureate and draped bust right / Barge of Sarapis: Zeus-Sarapis enthroned left on the middle of a galley left, he is holding a long scepter with his left hand, pointing at Kerberos at his feet with his right hand, on the throneback is Nike crowning him with a wreath; to the left, Demeter standing facing, head right, holding grain ears and a long torch; to the right, Tyche standing facing, head left, holding a cornucopia and rudder; below Tyche, Isis-Euthenia(?) reclining left, wearing a kalathos on her head; L KA (date) in exergue. Köln 1871 var. (uncertain year and without Isis-Euthenia); Dattari (Savio) 2860 var. (same); K&G –; cf. Emmett 1673.21 var. (same); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 127 (this coin). Good VF, dark brown patina with touches of green. Extremely rare. One of just two known, and by far the finest. The other specimen is in the collection of the American Numismatic Society (1944.100.60880).


From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection. Ex Künker 89 (8 March 2004), lot 1801.

An extremely rare type in general, this variant includes a fourth figure, perhaps Isis-Euthenia, not seen on most. The reverse die detail is amazing, and the date (not quite clear on the ANS specimen) is visible.

In his book, Alexandrian Coins, Keith Emmett writes: “It is likely that this coin-type was based on the Eleusinian mysteries of Demeter. It represents the symbolic journey of grain (Demeter) from Sarapis’ (Hades) underworld to its return above ground under the guidance of Fortune (Tyche).” As Emmett was writing about the usually seen variety with three deities, he did not mention the fourth deity, Isis-Euthenia, which is seen on the present coin. Isis-Euthenia may have been included by the celator of this particular die as part of this “symbolic journey” and to complete the Greco-Roman-Egyptian tetrad.