Featured An Interesting Representation of Glykon

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Jul 10, 2021.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Glykon was an ancient snake god with a large and influential cult within the Roman Empire in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Almost everything we know about the cult comes from a work by the 2nd century satirist Lucian called Ἀλέξανδρος ἢ Ψευδομάντις (Alexander, or the False Prophet). Lucian claimed Glykon was created in the mid-2nd century by the Greek cult leader, Alexander of Abonoteichos. Lucian called Alexander a false prophet and denounced the whole cult as being based on a hoax: Glykon himself was supposedly a hand puppet made of linen.

    Alexander claimed that his god Glykon was an incarnation of Asklepios, the Greek god of healing. According to the cult's mythology, Alexander had foretold the coming of a new incarnation of Asklepios. When the people gathered in the marketplace of Abonoteichos at noon, when the incarnation was supposed to occur, Alexander produced a goose egg and sliced it open, revealing the god within. Within a week it grew to the size of a man with the features of a man on its face, including long blond hair. As an incarnation of Asklepios, Glykon was thought to have healing powers, especially to cure infertility. See also @Jochen1's interesting thread about Glykon.

    In short order Glykon worship spread throughout the area between the Danube and Euphrates. Beginning late in the reign of Antoninus Pius and continuing into the 3rd century, Roman provincial coins were struck in honor of the snake god, demonstrating his popularity. Here is my latest acquisition, purchased from @PeteB of Akropolis Ancient Coins.

    Caracalla Pautalia Asklepios riding Glykon.jpg
    Caracalla, AD 198-217.
    Roman Provincial tetrassarion, 14.78 g, 29.6 mm, 1 h.
    Thrace, Pautalia, c. AD 198-205.
    Obv: AVT K M AVP ANTΩNEINOC, beardless, laureate head of Caracalla, right.
    Rev: OYΛΠIAC ΠAV | TAΛIAC. Asklepios cradling serpent-entwined staff, reclining left, head right, on winged, coiled, and bearded Glykon flying right.
    Refs: BMC 3.145,34; Ruzicka 612; Varbanov II 5008; Moushmov 4235, Mionnet Suppl. 2, p. 384, 1084; Vaillant n. Gr. 1074.

    This coin overtly depicts the close relationship between Glykon and Asklepios. Asklepios rides astride the serpent god, who has wings, a fish-tail and a beard. The standard references do not identify the serpent on this coin as Glykon, however. For example, Mionnet, writing in 1822, describes it as "un serpent ailé" (a winged serpent). Similarly, Reginald S. Poole, writing in 1877 (BMC Greek 3), calls it a "winged dragon." Moushmov, writing in 1912, describes the creature simply as a "змия" (snake). Ruzicka, writing in 1933, describes it as a "geflügelten Drachen" (winged dragon). I have seen auction listings identifying the serpent with Ketos.

    Yet it's clear the serpent is to be identified as Glykon. On numerous other coins of the Balkan Peninsula, Glykon is depicted as bearded or bearing a fish tail. Moreover, the iconography is only understandable in the context of Glykon as an incarnation of Asklepios.

    Let's see your coins depicting Glykon, Asklepios, and especially Asklepios and Glykon portrayed together!
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  3. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    That's a great depiction, and I agree that the serpent is mostly likely Glykon. I don't think the beard is a good indicator (serpents connected with divinity are standardly depicted with beards), but the fish tail seems to be pretty reliable.

    Here's the only coin I have where I'm pretty sure it's Glykon on the reverse. The fish tail is very clear, and the halo also seems to be an indicator:
    Moesia Inferior, Nikopolis: Geta; Varbanov 3284. 27mm, 11.11g.
    tenbobbit, TIF, svessien and 15 others like this.
  4. ominus1

    ominus1 When in Rome, do as the Romans do Supporter

    ..my one & only 'snake' coin featuring a Glykon reverse on one of the two Marcrinus & Diadumenian provincials IMG_0392.JPG IMG_0393.JPG
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  5. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

  6. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

  7. ominus1

    ominus1 When in Rome, do as the Romans do Supporter

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  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Wow, RC, great coin, and a revelation to me. I have the same reverse type, and never noticed the fish tail! The detail isn't as clear on mine, but looking at it again, I do think that perhaps it's there.

    Caracalla - Pautalia Asklepios Serpent.jpg
    AE28. 14.21g, 28.5mm. THRACE, Pautalia, circa AD 198-217. Varbanov 5013; Ruzicka, Pautalia 616. O: AΥT K M AΥΡH ANTΩNINOΣ, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust left, holding spear and shield. R: OΥΛΠIAΣ Π/AΥTAΛIA/Σ, Asklepios reclining left, head right, on winged and bearded serpent (with fish tail?) coiled flying right, raising right hand and cradling serpent-entwined staff in left arm.

    My other Glykons...

    Commodus - Pautalia AE24 Glykon 4016.JPG COMMODUS
    AE24. 6.39g, 23.8mm. THRACE, Pautalia, AD 180-192. Varbanov 4565; RPC Online IV.1 temp 8913. O: ΑΥ ΚΑΙ ΜΑΡ ΑΥΡ ΚΟΜΟΔΟC, Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right. R: ΟΥΛΠΙΑC ΠΑ-ΥΤΑ/ΛΙΑC, the serpent Glykon wearing wig and with fish tail coiled right, feeding from altar to right; tree or branch to left.

    Julia Domna - Augusta Traiana AE24 Glykon 4179.JPG
    AE24. 7.49g, 23.6mm. THRACE, Augusta Traiana, AD 193-217. Schönert-Geiss, Augusta Traiana 205; Varbanov 1061 (R5). O: IOYΛIA ΔΟΜΝΑ CEB, Draped bust right. R: AVΓOVCTHC TPAIANHC, the serpent Glykon coiled in four folds, head erect right, wearing wig and fish tail.
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  9. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Very nice coin, RC. Great reverse design!
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  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    You can't show that Commodus without me wanting to post my coins of the type from the same city. I do not have the Commodus. Note the Clodius Albinus uses the same 'head on altar' pose. Note the open mouth.

    The Albinus facing Septimius shows a very different pose with the head raised.

    A decade later (judging from the portrait style) came the Septimius alone from Pautalia.

    Philippopolis also snaked in this period and used a tongue.

    Macrinus and Diadumenian used the pose from Marcianopolis.

    Not really of the same period, is this year 17 Alexandrian drachm of Antoninus Pius showing the serpent Agathodaemon with head of Serapis.
    tenbobbit, TIF, svessien and 14 others like this.
  11. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Well, perhaps we can accommodate one more Severan snake - with Glykon
    Elagabalus Maesa Markianopolis.jpg Moesia Inferior, Marcianopolis, Elagabalus, with grandmother Julia Maesa, AD 218-222, Æ Pentassarion, Julius Antonius Seleucus, consular legate
    Obv: AVT K M AVP ANTΩNEINOC AVΓ IOVΛIA MAICA AVΓ, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Elagabalus right, vis-à-vis diademed and draped bust of Julia Maesa left
    Rev: VΠ IUΛ ANT CEΛEVKOV MAPKIANOΠOΛITΩN, coiled serpent; E to upper left
    Ref: Varbanov 1675
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2021
    tenbobbit, TIF, svessien and 8 others like this.
  12. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Great info, RC, and wonderful coins, everyone!

    This one needs a reshoot.
    THRACE, Pautalia. Caracalla
    CE 198-217
    AE29, 16.4 gm
    Obv: AYT K M AY CEY ANTΩNEINOC; Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right
    Rev: OYΛΠIAC ΠAYTAΛIAC; Asklepios seated right on back of winged serpent
    Ref: Varbanov 5007
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  13. tenbobbit

    tenbobbit Well-Known Member

    One thing i had not noticed before was the omission of the Fish Tail from the coins of Marcianopolis, mine included.
    There are most likely some out there but, a quick search didn't show any.
    I wonder why ?

  14. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Serpent cults were widespread in northern Greece. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish them from the Glycon cult of Alexander of Abonuteichos. Whether this problem plays a role in the coin from Markianopolis, I do not know.

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