Venus Anadyomene or Aphrodite Just Drying Her Hair - Gordian III Æ 22 from Deultum

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Marsyas Mike, Sep 21, 2019.

  1. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    I scoured Coin Talk for an Aphrodite/Venus of this type and found nothing, so I decided to start a new thread, despite the cruddiness of the coin in question. I thought it worth a thread because it has Aphrodite in a rather unusual pose: drying her long hair, perhaps seawater right after she was born (think Botticelli). Or she's just taking a bath (thus the jug).

    The emerging from the sea type is known as Venus Anadyomene - Wikipedia has several example from art, but no coins - below is a statuette:

    Goridian - Musée_Royal_de_Mariemont_-_Statuette_de_Vénus_sortant_de_l'onde_(4).JPG

    Photo: By Romaine - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

    As for the coin I just got, information was scanty. Virtually all I know about it comes from Harlan J. Berk via a acsearch hit:

    "Gordian III. ; Gordian III; 238-244 AD, Deultum, Thrace, AE 23.5, 9.43g. Cf. Dragonov-1313 and Varbanov-2863 (misdescribed), which are from a different die pair. Obv: IMP GORDIA - NVS P [IVS] FEL AVG Bust laureate, draped, cuirassed r. Rx: COL FL P - AC DEVLT Venus/Aphrodite washing her hair: she stands l., head r., wringing out her long wet hair with her r. hand, nude except for drapery covering the lower part of her legs, one end of which also hangs from her r. shoulder while she holds the other end in her l. hand; at her feet is a vase with two large handles so that it could easily be lifted and the water within poured over the body.

    Sculptural parallels to this type are thought to represent Aphrodite emerging from the sea after her birth and wringing the seawater from her hair, but our coin appears to depict a bathing scene. Dragonov knew only one reverse die of this type in the entire coinage of Deultum, used under Gordian III (pp. 124-5). Our coin is from a new, second, reverse die of the type, also used under Gordian III, but coupled with a different obverse die of that emperor, Draganov's Obv. 109, which was known to him from coins with three other reverse types (p. 75). Our coin also reveals a new, older state of that obverse die, with a large cud in the legend before the emperor's forehead, a fault which does not appear on any of the coins from this obverse die published by Dragonov...."

    Wildwinds also features this coin - and it appears to be a die match for the example in Berk's auction.

    That's it. I couldn't find any others. Except for my ghastly example, which is not a die match to the two I've seen. Since I don't know what the Dragonov example looks like, I don't know if mine is a match or not. Or if it is even genuine (it weighs a lot less than Berk's, although the giant chunk missing may be contributing to that). Maybe it's an old fake. It was in an undescribed lot of ancients off eBay and cost $0.60, so I'll only feel mildly scorched by news of a forgery.
    Gordian III Deleutm Aphro Sep 2019sun (0).jpg
    Gordian III Æ 22
    (c. 238-244 A.D.)
    Deultum, Thrace

    [IMP GORDIANVS PI]VS FEL AVG laureate, draped, cuirassed bust r. / COL FL [PAC DEVLT] Aphrodite, naked to waist, standing left holding the ends of her long hair and hem of chiton; amphora left.
    Jurukova 244; Sofia 8469; cf. Dragonov 1313; Varbanov 2863 (??).
    (4.97 grams / 22 mm)

    If anybody can shed any additional light on this interesting (I think) issue, I'd love to hear it. Are there any other coins showing Venus bathing or emerging from the sea? I'm still getting my feet wet (har har) with Provincials and I know there are some interesting types out there.
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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Cool! I LOVE threads like these, which explore a deity's avatars and compares the iconography to other depictions in other media in antiquity. It's numismatics, mythology, and art history all rolled into one!

    I have quite a few Venus coins and have never encountered a coin with Venus Anadyomene apart from yours, although a similar Venus bathing coin appeared on other issues of Deultum. @Ken Dorney picked up this one earlier this year:


    I only have a couple from Deultum. One from the Gordian era ...


    Tranquillina AD 241-244.
    Roman provincial Æ 24.1 mm, 8.06 g.
    Thrace, Deultum, AD 241-244.
    Obv: SAB TRANQVILLINA AVG, diademed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: COL FL PAC DEVLT, Marsyas as Silenus facing right, carrying wine skin over left shoulder and raising right arm.
    Refs: Moushmov 3757; Youroukova 425, 4/II; cf. SNG Cop 549.

    ... and one from the late Severan period ...

    Mamaea Deultum lion.jpg
    Julia Mamaea, AD 222-235.
    Roman provincial Æ 19.7 mm, 5.54 g.
    Thrace, Deultum, AD 222-235.
    Obv: IVLIA MAMAEA AVG, diademed and draped bust right.
    Rev: C F P D, lion walking right.
    Refs: Moushmov 3624; Varbanov 2382; BMC -- .
  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Can anyone explain the significance of the minor details of Venus by Diadumenian from Nicopolis? Altar, dolphin, cape?
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  5. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Some interesting types there, RC and Doug. Thanks for sharing.

    That @Ken Dorney picked up this one earlier this year: Deultum Venus is marvelous - I see she too has a jug at her feet. Very similar to the OP but without the "wringing of the hair" aspect. I wonder what it was about Venus and Deultum. When I was researching the OP, there are a lot of issues of Venus in a temple from Deultum, so

    Doug's Diadumenian is an intriguing example - flaming altar and dolphin brings to mind a fish fry, but I suspect something more profound and symbolic is going on there. I really have no idea.

    It goes without saying RC's Marsyas is right up my alley.
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  6. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Cool coin, @Marsyas Mike! Deultum seems to have issued a bunch of interesting types, none of which I've been able to score so far, unfortunately.
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  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    That's a lovely coin, @dougsmit ! I think I can explain some, but not all, the iconography here. Of the various motifs on the coin, the dolphin is the easiest to explain. Dolphins are an attribute of Venus, just like her apple. The dolphin alludes to her birth from the sea and was a common feature on ancient statuary (where it also served as a device to support the statue so it wouldn't break off at the ankles). Here are just a few such works.

    Here is the Manzarin Venus from the J. Paul Getty Museum, from 2nd century Rome:


    And this is the Venus of the Dolphin at the Prado, also from the 2nd century:


    In other media, dolphins appear along with Venus, such as in this mosaic found at Kingscote in Gloucestershire during an excavation in the 1970s. It is currently on display at the Corinium Museum and dates from the third to fourth century AD and features the face of Venus looking into a mirror in its central portion, while dolphins feature as decorations in its border:

    Capture 1.JPG

    Screenshot_2019-09-22 Dolphins in Roman art - Corinium Museum.jpg

    Lastly, Venus may be depicted with dolphins on Roman coins. This denarius of Manlius Cordius Rufus (BMCRR 463/3) in the British Museum features Venus on its obverse and a dolphin ridden by her son, Cupid, on its reverse.*


    She is also depicted with a dolphin entwined around a rudder on this dupondius of Faustina II issued by her father, Antoninus Pius, from my own collection (RIC 1409b):

    Faustina Jr VENVS and rudder dupondius.jpg

    As to Venus's "cape," I don't think it has any particular significance other than that it is a palla, a standard item of women's clothing in ancient Rome. You'll note the Manzarin Venus is wearing nothing but a palla -- as is the case on the Macrinus and Diadumenian coin from Nicopolis -- while Venus is depicted with both stola and palla on my dupondius, above.

    The difficult part of the iconography to explain is the presence of the altar. In the descriptions of the birth of Venus in the most ancient sources (Hesiod, Theogony 176 ff, Homeric Hymn 6 to Aphrodite, etc.), no mention of sacrifice to or by Aphrodite/Venus is mentioned. Nonetheless, Venus is depicted with an altar on other Roman coins, such as this follis of Galeria Valeria (RIC vi 121) of Antioch, and I don't find its presence on @dougsmit 's coin surprising.

    Galeria Valeria VENERI VICTRICI follis Antioch.jpg


    *The coin calls to mind this passage from The Anacreontea, Fragment 57 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C5th B.C.):

    "[Aphrodite] roaming over the waves like sea-lettuce, moving her soft-skinned body in her voyage over the white calm sea, she pulls the breakers along her path. Above her rosy breast and below her soft neck a great wave divides her skin. In the midst of the furrow, like a lily wound among violets, Kypris shines out from the clam sea. Over the silver on dancing dolphins ride guileful Eros and laughing Himeros (Desire), and the chorus of bow-backed fish plunging in the waves sports with Paphia where she swims."
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
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  8. Ken Dorney

    Ken Dorney Yea, I'm Cool That Way...

    Here's a refined image of the above mentioned coin:

    Gordian Aphrodite.jpg

    Gordian III, 238 – 244 AD
    Æ18, Thrace, Deultum Mint, 3.50 grams
    Obverse: GORDIANVS IMP AVG, Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Gordian left holding spear and shield over shoulder.
    Reverse: Aphrodite, nude, standing slightly left holding right hand over breasts and left hand over groin, C F P D across fields in two lines, amphora on ground to left.

    Draganov 1440a
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