Hercules Revived

Denarius 19/18, Rome. Moneyer M. Durmius. M DVRMIVS – III VIR Bust of young Hercules to r., wearing diadem and carrying club on r. shoulder. Rev. CAESAR AVGVSTVS SIGN RECE Kneeling, bare headed Parthian to r. holding signum to which is attached a vexillum marked X. 3,82 g. RIC 314. BMC 59. C. 433b. Ex L. A. Lawrence Coll., Auction Glendining, London, 7 December 1950, lot 359. UBS auction 78, lot 1299.

My favorite thing about numismatic databases are the things that pop up that I wasn’t looking for.  This is a great example.  There aren’t many known specimens, but there are two in the British Museum (example 1, example 2). Its obverse clearly echoes a much earlier republican didrachm (RRC 20/1).

Anonymous moneyer. AR Didrachm (6.85g) minted at Rome, 270-265 BC. Diademed head right of young Hercules, with long sideburn; club and lion’s skin over right shoulder. Reverse : ROMANO. She-wolf standing right, head reverted, suckling the twins Romulus and Remus. Sear 24; RSC 8; Craw 20/1; Syd 6. Provenance: The Hunter Collection; Ex Superior Stamp & Coin, NYINC Auction, December 8-9, 1995, lot 847. Ira and Larry Goldberg auction 72, lot 4115.

It’s always interesting to see an awareness of earlier types surfacing after such an extended period–over two centuries regardless of how one wishes to date RRC 20/1.  That said, it also raises questions about why this earlier type might have been attractive in this moment under Augustus.  Hercules is usually associated with his rival Antony.  As is Hellenistic Kingship. The connotations of the obverse type seem at odds with the Augustan program.  Perhaps this explains its rarity? Perhaps the moneyer thought better of the design choice?  A choice which at first which might have been attractive simply because of its antiquity and Augustus’ own rhetoric of conservative restoration?

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