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Research Coins: Feature Auction


The Rape of Persephone

CNG 112, Lot: 422. Estimate $500.
Sold for $525. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

MYSIA, Cyzicus. Pseudo-autonomous issue. Time of Caracalla, AD 211-217. Æ (34mm, 17.06 g, 6h). Kore Soteira issue. Draped bust of Kore right, wearing oak and grain ear wreath / The Rape of Persephone: Hades, cloak billowing behind him, standing slightly left in quadriga right, holding the limp body of Persephone with his right hand and the reigns of the quadriga with his left. Von Fritze X, Group VI, 41 and pl. VI, 34 (only obv. illustrated: same die); SNG BN –; SNG Copenhagen –: Savoca 14, lot 427 (same dies). Dark brown, almost black, surfaces, even roughness. VF. Very rare.

Ex Stack’s Bowers Galleries (12 January 2017), lot 5209; Nomos 12 (22 May 2016), lot 172.

Like Eleusis in Central Greece, Cyzicus was also an important center for the worship of Persephone. Among the most ancient of the deities in the Olympian pantheon and with connections to a pre-Hellenic mother earth goddess, she was, in her incarnation as Kore, the unmarried maiden, closely associated with Demeter, or Deo, the woman as matron and mother. Later adapted to create the mother-daughter pair and incorporated into traditional Classical mythology, Demeter remained connected with fertility, particularly that of the earth, while Persephone became the queen of the Underworld and whose part in the Eleusinian Mysteries offered the hope of life after death.

According to the tradition myth, as related in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, (verses 15-18), Hades fell in love with Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, and asked Zeus for permission to marry her. Zeus did not wish to offend his brother by refusing, but knew also that Demeter would not forgive him if Persephone were committed to the underworld. Zeus stated that he would neither give nor withhold his consent. This emboldened Hades to abduct Persephone, as she was picking flowers in a meadow, and carry her away in his horse-drawn chariot to the underworld, as is depicted on this coin’s reverse.