How could we not publish a teaser excerpt of Mike Markowitz's recent Coin Week article about eroticism on ancient coins? See the complete article online for more.
Satyrs on Staters
In Greek mythology, satyrs were lustful woodland spirits, companions of Dionysus the wine god (so they were often portrayed both drunk and aroused). For over a century (c. 525 – 411 BCE) the Aegean island of Thasos, famed for wine, issued coins depicting a satyr behaving inappropriately with a protesting nymph.
A learned auction cataloger writes:
"The overtly sexual displays seen on many early Greek coins can be disconcerting to the modern eye, viewing them through the lens of centuries of Christian fulminations against ‘paganism' and its erotic excesses. These scenes are at their most graphic in northern Greece, for example, on the archaic coins of …Thasos, showing the interplay of nymphs and satyrs. The towns and tribes of this region were only newly introduced to the ‘civilizing' influences of the south, and were still close to their roots in farming and herding cultures. Their gods were not the Olympian super beings, but the spirits of nature, and the emphasis was on celebrating the fecundity of fields and flocks."
From Eros to Cupid
The Romans represented Eros as a chubby winged baby, sometimes with a bow and quiver of arrows, the figure we recognize as Cupid. He appears on a variety of Republican denarii, for example an issue of Manius Fonteius, riding on a shaggy goat (perhaps a symbol of lust). The obverse of an issue of Caius Egnatius (75 BCE) shows a classic Cupid with a bow and quiver of arrows. Exceptional examples of this coin go for thousands of dollars, perhaps as upscale Valentine's Day gifts for fortunate numismatists.
To read the complete article, see:
Eroticism on Ancient Coins (Adults Only)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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