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The Seventh Labor – Herakles and the Cretan Bull

Triton XXI, Lot: 154. Estimate $7500.
Sold for $11000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (34mm, 25.64 g, 11h). Labors of Herakles series. Dated RY 6 (AD 142/143). AVT K • T • AIΛ A∆P • ANTωNINOC ЄVC ЄB, laureate head right / Herakles and the Cretan Bull – Herakles running right, nude, grasping the head of the Cretan bull, also running right, with both hands and jerking its head backward; behind, upright club covered with lion’s skin; before, ς/L (date). Köln –; Dattari (Savio) 8501 (this coin); K&G –; Emmett 1550.6 (R5 – rev. illustrated on p. 74B); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 160 (this coin). Good VF, attractive dark brown surfaces. Extremely rare, and probably the finest known (illustrated in color on the front cover of the January 1991 issue of The Celator [Vol. 5, No. 1]). Only one example in auction since 2000, which was the example we sold in Triton XI (2008), lot 537.

From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection. Ex Kerry K. Wetterstrom Collection (Classical Numismatic Auctions XIII, 4 December 1990), lot 201 (featured on the front cover); Numismatik Lanz 44 (16 May 1988), lot 590; Münzen und Medaillen AG 46 (28 April 1972), lot 206; Giovanni Dattari Collection, no. 8501.

Compelled to capture the Cretan Bull, which had sired the Minotaur, as his seventh Labor, Herakles sailed to Crete. There, Minos the king of Crete, gave the hero permission to take the bull away, as it had been causing destruction on the island. Herakles strangled the bull with his bare hands, and shipped it back to Athens. Although Eurystheus wished to sacrifice the bull to Hera, the goddess refused the sacrifice because it reflected glory on her sworn enemy. The bull was released and wandered into the town of Marathon, where it became known as the Marathonian Bull.