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Research Coins: Feature Auction


The Twelfth Labor – The Capture of Kerberos

Triton XXI, Lot: 159. Estimate $7500.
Sold for $8000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (35mm, 22.27 g, 12h). Labors of Herakles series. Dated RY 5 (AD 141/142). AVT K T AIΛ A∆P AN[TωNINOC] ЄVCЄB, laureate head right / Herakles Capturing Kerberos – Herakles advancing right, head left, holding club with his left hand over his shoulder, holding rope with his right hand and dragging Kerberos behind him out of the cave portal to Hades; before, L/Є (date). Köln –; Dattari (Savio) 8499 (this coin, obv. rubbing incorrect in DS); K&G –; Emmett 1557.5 (R5); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 155 (this coin). Good VF, brown surfaces with traces of green. Extremely rare, and one of the finest known for the type. Emmett lists this types as being struck for three of Pius’ regnal years: 5, 6, and 10. Another variant exists with the scene reversed, with Herakles standing left (Emmett 1558.4), which is known only from the Wetterstrom specimen (CNA XIII, lot 211).

From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection, purchased from Renzo Canavesi, Sagno, 1996. Ex Renzo Canavesi Collection (Sagno); Dr. Piero Beretta Collection (Milan); Giovanni Dattari Collection, no. 8499.

For his twelfth and final labor, Herakles was sent to the underworld to capture Kerberos. In order to complete this most difficult task, Herakles was initiated in the Eleusinian Mysteries so that he could learn how to enter and exit the underworld alive, as well as absolve himself of his past crime of killing the Centaurs in his fourth Labor. Finding the entrance to the underworld, he again enlisted the assistance of Athena, while Hermes, the conveyor of souls, guided him along. While there, Herakles was able to free Theseus, who had been imprisoned by Hades for attempting to kidnap Persephone, but could not do the same for Theseus’ accomplice, Pirithous. Herakles sought the permission of Hades and Persephone to take Kerberos. The gods assented on condition that Herakles did not harm the creature in any way. Wrestling Kerberos into submission, he brought it to the upper world through an entrance in the Peloponnese. When he returned with Kerberos to the palace, Eurystheus was so afraid of the fearsome beast that he jumped into a large storage jar to hide (a common theme throughout the labors, always depicting King Eurystheus as a coward). With this, Herakles’ punishment was complete, and he was now freed of his guilt.