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Ulysses Returns

564458. SOLD $2750

C. Mamilius Limetanus. 82 BC. AR Serrate Denarius (19mm, 3.93 g, 8h). Rome mint. Draped bust of Mercury right, wearing winged petasus; to left, M above caduceus / Ulysses, wearing pileus and mariner’s dress, walking right, leaning on staff in left hand and extending his right hand toward his dog, Argus, who advances toward him; C • MAMIL downward to left, LIME(TA)N upward to right. Crawford 362/1; Sydenham 741; Mamilia 6; BMCRR Rome 2725; RBW 1370 var. (obverse control letter). Lovely iridescent toning. Choice EF.

Ex Matthew Curtis Collection; Classical Numismatic Review XV.4 (4th Quarter, 1990), no. 40.

The obverse and reverse of this coin refer to the lineage of the gens Mamilia, who claimed their descent from Mamilia, the daughter of Telegonus, the son of Ulysses and Circe, and a descendant of Mercury. The reverse scene depicts the moment when, returning home from his long wanderings in the guise of a beggar so as to surprise and kill the many suitors of his wife Penelope, Ulysses' aged dog Argus recognizes him:

Soon as he perceived
Long-lost Ulysses nigh, down fell his ears
Clapped close, and with his tail glad sign he gave
Of gratulation, impotent to rise,
And to approach his master as of old.
Ulysses, noting him, wiped off a tear

. . . Then his destiny released
Old Argus, soon as he had lived to see
Ulysses in the twentieth year restored. (Hom. Od. 17.290 [Cowper's translation]).

At last, seeing his master after so many years, the old dog dies.