Featured Some notes on Nemesis

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Feb 23, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear friends of ancient mythology!

    Today I want to share some notes on Nemesis, one of the most interesting ancient deities. And not the goddess of revenge as you will see.

    Coin #1 (my first aureus):
    Claudius, AD 41 - 54
    AV - Aureus, 7.71g, 18mm
    Rome 46/47
    laureate head r.
    Pax/Nemesis advancing r., holding with l. hand winged caduceus and points with it at snake, coiling r. at her feet; drawing with r. hand fold of her drapery to the chin
    ref. RIC I, 38; C.57 (Lyon AD 45!); von Kaenel 628 (this specimen!)
    scarce (R2), about VF
    ex coll. Moritz Simon, Berlin (1930?)
    ex Glandining & Co., London 1929, Nr.666
    ex Cahn, Ffm. 1930, Nr.232
    ex MuM, Basel


    Cahn in Frankfurt was one of the leading German coin dealers. Herbert Cahn, at that time 20 years old, has to emigrate from the Nazis to Basel/Switzerland, where he foundet Münzen&Medaillen Basel. The catalog from 1930 I could buy later in a auction.

    In connection with this coin we should talk about the strange gesture where Nemesis is drawing a fold of her robe before the chin. Rossbach (in Roscher, Mythologie, 1909) takes it for a gesture of modesty. LIMC IV, sv. Nemesis 232 writes, that it is a gesture symbolizing self-restraint in victory. Her spitting into her bosom ('spuere in sinum') is apotropaic in nature. The type itself was first used by C.Vibius Varus in AD 49 BC (Cr. 494/35). Claudius' re-use of this type was surely due to his personal antiquarianism.

    Coin #2:

    Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Macrinus AD 217-218
    AE - AE 26, 12.2g, 26.15mm, 135°
    struck under governor Statius Longinus
    laureate head r.
    Nemesis-Aequitas, wearing double chiton, standing l., holding scales and cubit, to
    her feet the wheel
    ref. a) not in AMNG
    cf. AMNG I/1, 1769
    b) not in Varbanov
    c) Hristova/Hoeft/Jekov (2018) No.
    some green encrustations, otherwise EF, choice portrait
    I think here it is actually not a scourge but a cubit because of its marks!

    Not far from Marathon, where the mighty Persian army was defeated by the Athenians in historical times (490 BC), there was a sanctuary with a statue of Nemesis. It is told that the Persians' pride was such that they believed that nothing could stop them on their way of taking Athens. Accordingly, they brought along a piece of Parian marble to make a trophy to celebrate their victory, being persuaded that their task was already accomplished. But we know, they were defeated, and of this same piece of marble, the Athenian sculptor Phidias made the statue of Nemesis, the goddess who punishes the proud. According to others the statue was made by Agorakritos, one of his scholars.

    Nemesis is most commonly described as daughter of Night, though some call her a daughter of Erebus or of Okeanos. She is a personification of the moral reverence for law, of the natural fear of committing a culpable action, and hence of conscience, and for this reason she is mentioned along with Aidos, i. e. Shame (Hes. Theog. 223). In later writers, as Herodotos and Pindar, Nemesis is a kind of fatal divinity, for she directs human affairs in such a manner as to restore the right proportions or equilibrium wherever it has been disturbed; she measures happiness and unhappiness, and he who is blessed with too many or too frequent gifts of fortune, is visited by her with losses and sufferings, in order that he may become humble, and feel that there are bounds beyond which human happiness cannot proceed with safety. This notion arose from a belief that the gods were envious of excessive human happiness (Herodot, i. 34, iii. 40 ). Nemesis was thus a check upon extravagant favours conferred upon man by Tyche or Fortuna, and from this idea lastly arose that of her being an avenging and punishing power of fate, who, like Dike and the Erinyes, sooner or later overtakes the reckless sinner (Apollon. Rhod., Sophocles, Euripides, Catull). The inhabitants of Smyrna worshipped two Nemeseis, both of whom were daughters of Night. She is frequently mentioned under the surnames Adrasteia and Rhamnusia, the latter of which she derived from the town of Rhamnus in Attika, where she had a celebrated sanctuary. Besides the places already mentioned she was worshipped at Patrae and at Kyzikos.

    But there is an allegorical tradition that Zeus begot by Nemesis at Rhamnus an egg, which Leda found, and from which Helena and the Dioskuroi sprang, whence Helena herself is called Rhamnusis. On the pedestal of the Rhamnusian Nemesis, Leda was represented leading Helena to Nemesis (Pausanias). The Rhamnusian statue bore in its left hand a branch of an apple tree, in its right hand a patera, and on its head a crown, adorned with stags and an image of victory. Sometimes she appears in a pensive standing attitude, holding in her left hand a bridle or a branch of an ash tree, and in her right a wheel, with a sword or a scourge.

    Nemesis literally means 'the allocator, the reciprocator'. Hence as goddess of the moment she is the anthropomorphized presiding fate. In Rhamnus happened a melting with Themis/Gaia. Later she was approximating Tyche/Fortuna. As cosmic fate she has been praised in hymns (Orph. Hymn.).

    The religion of the ancient Greeks originated from the religion of the immigrated Greeks and the pre-hellenic population in Asia Minor and Greece. Compared to the great monotheistic religions it attracts attention that the greek religion missed clear laws and prohibitions eventhough the goddess Nemesis and the Erinyns punished violations of nature and especially matricide. We can speak - in ancient times since Xenophanes - of an anthropomorphism - a humanization of the gods; so they are by their origin as mythological figures more similar to men in their failing than the one and only god in Judaism, Christianism or Islam. We have even the suggestion that gods and men originally were from the same species which was separated not until late at Mekone (Hesiod, Theogon. 512). A nice idea, isn't it?

    History of Art:
    Nemesis was usually represented in works of art as a virgin divinity, and in the more ancient works she seems to have resembled Aphrodite, whereas in the later ones she was more grave and serious, and had numerous attributes. As winged she should be first depicted in Smyrna.

    Often these are goddesses who can't be identfied exactly. In this cases Pick has used a double name, e.g. Nemesis/Aequitas (with scales) or Homonoia/Nemesis (with cornucopiae). The winged Nemesis usually is called Pax/Nemesis.

    Coin #3:
    Cilicia, Eirenopolis-Neronias, Domitian, AD 81-96
    AE 19, 3.7g, 45°
    struck AD 93/94 (year 42, era of Eirenopolis)
    Laureate head r.
    rev. Pax/Nemesis, winged, nude to hips, stg. r., holding kerykeion in lowered l. hand
    and drawing with r. hand fold of her drapery to the chin
    [in r. field BM [year 42)]
    ref. RPC 1765; SNG Levante 1602; Karbach in JNG 42/43 (1992/3), p. 90
    rare, about VF, fine style
    ex Davisson auction 7, 1996. lot 125

    This coin shows most beautifully the iconographical affinity with Aphrodite. Here Nemesis is depicted as Kallipygos!

    I have added a pic of a red-figured Attic amphora from the 5th century BC depicting Nemesis and Tyche. Today in the Antikensammlung Berlin (from theoi.com)

    (1) Der kleine Pauly
    (2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
    (3) Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
    (4) http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Nemesis.html

    Best regards
    eparch, Rich Buck, chrsmat71 and 12 others like this.
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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Lovely coins and informative write-up, @Jochen ! I particularly like that Macrinus provincial. That is undoubtedly a cubit-rod she is holding.

    I think you'll enjoy this piece I once wrote about Nemesis.
    Alegandron likes this.
  4. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    @Roman Collector Thank you for sharing this piece. Nice to read and beautiful to look at.

    Roman Collector likes this.
  5. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Here is one I just posted recently on another thread.

    vespasian ric 544.jpg
  6. Agricantus

    Agricantus Allium aflatunense

    Danke schön, Jochen!
    Ευχαριστω πολυ, RomanCollector!
    Excellent write-ups, they cleared up my confusion about this θεα
    Roman Collector likes this.
  7. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    Amazing denarius Orfew!!!!!
    Thanks for showing it to us.
    The first I've seen in 40+ years!
  8. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Just a guy making his way in the universe

    Geta, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Nemesis


  9. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Well-Known Member

    That's a wonderful aureus with a fantastic pedigree on top. Congratulations and thanks for the writeup!
  10. tenbobbit

    tenbobbit Well-Known Member

    My Macrinus - apologies in advance as I don't know how to split the picture ( please ignore the top coin )
    Bottom coin, Nemesis/ Dikaiosyne with Scales & Cornucopiae, No Wheel.

    I don't mind its flaws, Flan Pinch causing poor strike.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2019
  11. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Nemesis with her usual attributes:

    Gordian III and Tranquillina Tomis Nemesis.JPG
    Nemesis holding arshin (cubit rule?) and bridle; wheel at feet. Gordian III and Tranquillina, A.D. 238-244, Moesia Inferior, Tomis, Æ 4.5 assaria, 28.92 mm, 15.89 g, 7 h; AMNG I 3537, Varbanov 5701, Moushmov 2279, Cf. SNG Cop 305.


    Domna Pautalia Nemesis.jpg
    Nemesis holding scale and short staff (cubit rule?); wheel at her feet. Julia Domna, AD 193-211, Thrace, Pautalia, Æ 22.3 mm, 5.97 g; Ruzicka 482, Moushmov 4222.


    Gordian III Nicopolis Nemesis.jpg
    Nemesis holding arshin (cubit rule?) and cornucopiae; wheel at her feet. Gordian III, AD 238-44, Moesia Inferior, Nicopolis, Æ 27.3 mm, 12.57 g; ANMG I 2080, Varbanov 4127, Moushmov 1498.


    Smyrna semi-autonomous Nemesis.jpg
    Winged Nemesis advancing right, hand bent and plucking chiton at her neck, holding bridle in left hand. Pseudo-autonomous issue, time of Septimius Severus, AD 193-211, Ionia, Smyrna, Æ 26.5 mm, 8.03 g, 6 h; SNG Cop 1304.
  12. jb_depew

    jb_depew Well-Known Member

    Great write-up! Here is my only coin featuring Nemesis:

    Hadrian Sestertius - Victory over Bar Kochba revolt
    136 AD
    Rome mint
    Obverse: HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P, laureate head right
    Reverse: S-C, Pax-Nemesis advancing right, holding out fold of dress in apotropaic gesture & holding olive branch
    References: RIC II 779; Sear II 3646
    32mm; 22.79g
  13. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Beautiful coin. Congrats!

    jb_depew likes this.
  14. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    George McClellan likes this.
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