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Art and Sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Marble Head of Antinous

This week’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a marble head of Antinous, one of the ten marble images of Antinous found there.

Antinous, from Hadrian's Villa, late Hadrianic period 130-138 AD, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome
Antinous, from Hadrian’s Villa, late Hadrianic period 130-138 AD, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

This portrait of Antinous is conserved in the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome. It is related to a coin type minted in the city of Adramyttium in Mysia (modern Edremit, Turkey) by an individual called Gessius (his name appears on the reverse of the coin). The coin was struck with the head of Antinous on the obverse and the words ΙΑΚΧΟC ΑΝΤΙΝΟΟC (Iacchos Antinous). Antinous is portrayed as Iacchos, a minor Dionysian deity (also epithet of Dionysus) associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries (Hadrian first took part in the Mysteries in about 124 AD and again in late summer 128 AD together with Antinous). The British Museum holds such a coin with the Eleusinian goddess Demeter on the reverse.

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10 Coins of Ancient Greece

The first Greek coins were minted in Aegina from 560 BCE, and then Athens and Corinth also began their own coin production shortly after. Each city used an easily identifiable symbol: a turtle for Aegina, an owl for Athens and a winged-horse for Corinth.  The turtle was an apt choice for the Mediterranean trading power, the owl was associated with Athens’ patron goddess Athena, and Pegasus was the horse of the Corinthian hero Bellerophon. Other cities soon produced their own coins and images from Greek mythology continued to be popular in coin designs. Later, letters and short inscriptions were added to signify the issuing authority.  The coins were created by hammering a plain metal disk placed between two engraved metal dies made from hardened bronze or iron. The disks were heated first to aid the stamping of the design. Greek coins were most commonly made of silver, gold, or a copper alloy.

Silver stater from Metapontum, 520 BCE. O: Ear of wheat, R: same incuse.