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Research Coins: Feature Auction


The Twelve Labors of Herakles

The First Labor – Herakles and the Nemean Lion

Triton XXI, Lot: 150. Estimate $2500.
Sold for $2500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (33mm, 21.84 g, 12h). Labors of Herakles series. Dated RY 4 (AD 140/141). [AY]T K T AIΛ A∆P ANTω[NINOC ЄYCЄB], laureate head right / Herakles and the Nemean Lion – Herakles standing right, holding the Nemean lion by its neck and jaws with both hands and raising it up into the air, off of the ground, with the lion’s body horizontal; L TЄT APTOV (date) around. Köln –; Dattari (Savio) –; K&G –; Emmett 1555.4 (R5 = Curtis specimen); Curtis, “The Coinage of Roman Egypt: A Survey” (reprinted from The Numismatist, January-August 1956), Pl. XXVI (reverse type illustrated for RY 4) Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 153 (this coin). VF, dark brown patina with traces of green, a few minor pits. Extremely rare type for this regnal year, and difficult to find in any condition.

From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection. Ex Kerry K. Wetterstrom Collection (Classical Numismatic Auctions XIII, 4 December 1990), lot 187; John Work Garrett Collection (Part III, Numismatic Fine Arts/Bank Leu, 29 March 1985), lot 445 (part of).

For his first labor, Herakles was to slay the Nemean Lion and bring back its skin. The Nemean Lion, called thus as it had been terrorizing the area around Nemea, had a skin so thick that it was impenetrable to weapons. After making futile attempts to subdue it with his weapons, Herakles cast them aside and wrestled the lion to the ground, eventually killing it by thrusting his arm down its throat and choking it to death. Skinning the beast was no easy task, either. After Herakles spent hours trying unsuccessfully to skin the lion, Athena, in the guise of an old crone, appeared to him, and convinced him to use the creature’s own claws to cut the hide. Thereafter, the hide became the hero’s own impenetrable armor. When Eurystheus saw Herakles wearing his new fearsome outfit, he hid in a large bronze jar, and thenceforth commanded the hero through a herald.