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Research Coins: Feature Auction


The Tenth Labor – Herakles and the Cattle of Geryon

Triton XXI, Lot: 157. Estimate $7500.
Sold for $8000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (35mm, 28.84 g, 1h). Labors of Herakles series. Dated RY 4 (AD 140/141). [AV]T K T AIΛ A∆P • ANTωNI[NOC ЄYCЄB], laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / Herakles and the Cattle of Geryon – Herakles standing left, holding club and lion's skin with his left arm; two charging bulls to left and Herakles grasping a horn of the closest; below, the dead body of Geryon prostrate to left; L ∆ (date) across field. Köln 1350 (same dies); Dattari (Savio) 2619 (this coin – reverse illustrated on pl. XV); K&G 35.78; Emmett 1542.4 (R5); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 152 (this coin). VF, dark brown surfaces with touches of green and red. Very rare, and superior to the three other examples to appear at auction since 2000.

From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection, purchased from Renzo Canavesi, Sagno, 1996. Ex Renzo Canavesi Collection (Sagno); John Work Garrett Collection (Part I, Numismatic Fine Arts/Bank Leu, 16 May 1984), lot 800; Giovanni Dattari Collection, no. 2619.

For his tenth labor, Herakles was required to travel to Erytheia to capture the Cattle of Geryon. En route, while crossing the Libyan Desert, he became so frustrated at the heat that he shot an arrow at Helios. Admiring the hero’s courage, Helios gave him the golden cup, which Helios used to sail nightly across the Ocean from west to east, and Herakles used it to help him reach Erytheia. Upon arriving there, Herakles was confronted by the two-headed watchdog, Orthros, and the herdsman Eurytion, each of whom he killed with his club. Hearing what was happening, Geryon, armed with three shields, three spears, and wearing three helmets, pursued Herakles to the River Anthemus. Once there, Herakles shot Geryon dead with an arrow he had poisoned with the blood of the Lernaean Hydra. To annoy Herakles as he drove the cattle back to Eurystheus, Hera sent a gadfly to scatter the herd by biting them. After a year’s labor, Herakles recovered the herd, but was further hindered by a flood, also caused by the goddess. Herakles eventually returned to Tiryns, and Eurystheus sacrificed the cattle to Hera.