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Antinoüs as Hero


EGYPT, Alexandria. Antinoüs. Died AD 130. Æ Drachm (34mm, 26.70 g, 12h). Dated RY 19 of Hadrian (AD 134/135). ANTINOOY HPωOC, draped bust right, wearing hem–hem crown / Antinoüs, cloaked and holding caduceus, on horseback right; L/ IΘ (date) to right and below horse. Köln 1276; Dattari (Savio) 2080-2 & 8003-4; K&G 34a.1; RPC III 6062; Emmet 1346.19. VF, attractive brown patina with traces of green.

Ex Phil Peck (“Morris”) Collection.

Antinoüs was a handsome young man from Bithynia, who became the beloved companion of the Emperor Hadrian between AD 123/4 and the youth’s mysterious death during an imperial tour of Egypt in AD 130. In his (now lost) memoirs, Hadrian insisted Antinoüs had drowned in the Nile by accident; hostile historians implied that the emperor had sacrificed the youth in some rite to restore his failing health, or that Antinoüs had committed ritual suicide. More recently, it has been suggested that Antinoüs was murdered by Hadrian’s jealous wife Sabina and her female traveling companions. Whatever the truth, Antinoüs was extensively honored on the Roman provincial coinage of the East, particularly in Bithynia and Egypt, but was totally absent from the official Roman coinage, since the Romans regarded their emperor’s display of “Greek love” as an embarrassment. On this pleasing bronze drachm of Alexandria, Antinoüs is called “hero” and shown with the attributes of Horus (hem-hem crown on the obverse) and Mercury (caduceus on the reverse), two divinities who were often represented as handsome youths.