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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 70, Lot: 549. Estimate $2500. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 21 September 2005. 
Sold For $2400. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

MYSIA, Cyzicus. Autonomous. Late 2nd century AD. Æ Medallion (42mm, 37.70 g, 7h). Draped bust of Kore Soteira right, wearing grain ear wreath / Cylindrical temple with closed central door, surmounted by three females holding torches; lighted serpent-entwined torches on either side. Von Fritze III, 6f; SNG France 564 (same dies); SNG Copenhagen -. VF, orichalcum surfaces, areas of minor porosity. A very rare and noteworthy architectural type. ($2500)

Ex The New York Sale VII (15 January 2004), lot 216; Münzen und Medaillen Deutschland 11 (7 November 2002), lot 52; Sternberg XI (20-21 November 1981), lot 259.

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.

In the Orphic version of the story, which seems to be the source for our coin type, Persephone's abductor as Zeus, who spirited her away disguised as a serpent. From this union was born Dionysus-Zagreus. At the instigation of Hera, the Titans tore the child, disguised as a bullock, to pieces and proceeded to consume the flesh. Driving them off, Zeus recovered the still-beating heart, which he either incorporated into himself, or fed to Semele. These latter elements linked Zagreus with Dionysus, since both were connected to regeneration and had mysteries in their own right. Sophocles (Fr. 94), called Dionysus "Iacchos with the horns" and according to Athenaeus (Deipnosophistae 2) a statue of Dionysus in the form of a bull stood in Cyzicus, perhaps on the grounds of the temple complex.