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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Herakles and the Centaur Pholos

Triton XXI, Lot: 160. Estimate $7500.
Sold for $9000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (35mm, 25.61 g, 12h). Dated RY 6 (AD 142/143). [AV]T K T AIΛ A∆P ANTωNINOC CЄB Є[VC], laureate head right / Herakles and the Centaur Pholos: Herakles seated slightly right upon a rock that is covered with his lion’s skin, his club leans against the rock and he is holding a lyre with his left hand; with his right hand, Herakles is grasping the right arm of the Centaur Pholos, who is standing right, forepart only, clad in goat’s skin; to the right, an attendant facing, head left, drawing wine from a crater placed upon a rock; above, a tree branch and ς (date); [L] in exergue. Köln 1428 (same rev. die); Dattari (Savio) 8507 (this coin); K&G 35.192 (this coin illustrated); Emmett 1564.6 (R5); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 140 (this coin). VF, dark brown and red patina with traces of green, some smoothing. Extremely rare. This coin, sold twice in the last thirty years, may be the only specimen in private hands. Emmett lists the type as being struck for three of Pius’ regnal years: 5, 6, and 24. And for all three years, he assigns it an R5 rarity rating.

From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection. Ex Dr. Busso Peus Nachf. 384 (2 November 2005), lot 913; Kerry K. Wetterstrom Collection (Classical Numismatic Auctions XIII, 4 December 1990), lot 215; Giovanni Dattari Collection, no. 8507.

Herakles, on his way to capture the Erymanthian boar, was entertained by the Centaur Pholos, who offered Herakles wine from the centaur’s communal wine jar. This angered the other centaurs and they attacked Herakles while Pholos hid in terror. In Herakles’ attempt to defeat the centaurs, an arrow inadvertently struck the Centaur Chiron – Herakles’ old friend and tutor. Herakles tried to help Chiron, but to no avail as the wound was incurable. The Alexandrian coin type portrays Herakles, holding a lyre, and clasping the arm of Pholos as the two are conversing; to the right, an attendant is drawing wine from the communal jar.