There is no theme based on myths in the history of coinage that can be detected so frequently as the ‘’Hercules Theme’’. If you don’t know a lot about this theme, it isn’t strange that you expect that this theme was only popular during antiquity.
Because Hercules was created, or what the ancient people would say ‘’born’’, in ancient times. But the last coin with the Hercules theme was minted in 2014 Monaco and this coin will not be the last with this specific theme. In this blog I talk about Hercules, this the Roman equivalent of the Greek Heracles (??a????), in old Latin he is called Hercle and Hercoles.
A lot of people know Hercules, maybe thanks to Disney and Hollywood, as a Greek hero, the son of Zeus and Alkmene. He was an illegitimate child because Zeus his official wife was the goddess Hera. Alkmene was just a mortal woman who had an affair with the god Zeus. Because of this Hera hated Hercules and bothered him everywhere she could.
Catalog: RIC 639 ; BMC 717
Weight: 24.79 g
Head of Commodus(177-192) as Hercules with lion’s kin.
Hercules married Megara
Hercules went ,after a turbulent youth, to Thebes. There he married King Creon’s daughter, Megara. He had several children with her and was happy. Unfortunately Hera’s resentment was merciless and limitless. She made Hercules mad and in this madness Hercules killed his own children.
His madness was cured by Antikyreus with the magical plant hellebore. Now we know, and probably also then, that this plant is toxic. When Hercules was cured he realized what he had done and fled desperately to the Oracle of Delphi. He wanted help there to restore his honor, but he didn’t knew that the oracle was guided by Hera herself!
He was directed by the oracle to serve King Eurystheus for ten years. Eurystheus gave Hercules ten ‘’impossible’’ labors, but after finishing them, Hercules was cheated by Eurystheus when he added two more, this resulted in the famous Twelve Labors of Heracles.
Weight: 10.05 g – Diameter: 27.00 mm
Troas, Alexandria Mint 222-235 AD.
Obverse: IM AVR S(retrograde)ELE ANDR VC Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right.
Reverse: COL ALE TROA Drunken Herakles standing right, being supported by three satyrs.
References: Bellinger 335, SNG Cop – Very Rare. Size: 27mm, 10.05g. Numismatic Notes: A highly intriguing and rare reverse type! Exceptional about EF detail and well-struck!
Weight: 16,23 g
Celtic, Danube Region, Imitative of Thasos, Silver Tetradrachm, 1st Century B.C.,Wreathed head of Dionysos right, style devolved.,Herakles standing facing, head left, holding club and lion skin.
Hercules on coins
On coins Hercules is depicted in several ways. Most of the time he is depicted in a way that refers to one, or more of the twelve labors. Famous are the coins with Hercules from Commodus and Postumus. These Roman emperors had a special connection with Hercules. But as mentioned earlier you find him back on coins through whole antiquity.
I think that Hercules was a role model for a lot of people in antiquity but also a superhero like Spiderman nowadays. People loved the stories of him and they were remembered by the coins to this stories. The theme became so popular in antiquity that it survived the Middle Ages and became popular after this era again. Also on medals you can find him frequently. In a next blog I will go further on the coins of Postumus and his connection with Hercules.
Weight: 3.20 g – Diameter: 22.00 mm
Postumus AR Antoninianus. Cologne Mint 260-269 AD. Obverse: POSTVMVS AVG Radiate bust left, holding club over right shoulder, lion’s head on left shoulder, strap across bare chest. Reverse: PAX AVG Pax standing left, holding branch and scepter. RIC: 319 Very Rare. Numismatic Notes: About EF overall! This is a very rare and highly intriguing bust style with Postumus portrayed as Hercules! Pleasantly toned with good silver content!
Written by Joël van Dam, Owner of Joëlnumismatics.
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