There is no theme based on myths in the history of coinage that can be detected so frequently as the ” Hercules ” theme. If you don’t know a lot about this theme, then it isn’t strange that you might expect that he was popular only during antiquity.
Because Hercules was created, or what the ancient people would say “born”, in ancient times. But the most recent coin featuring a Hercules theme was minted in 2014 in Monaco – and it will not be the last. In this blog I talk about the hero, this the Roman equivalent of the Greek Heracles (in old Latin he is called Hercle and Hercoles).
A lot of people know Hercules, maybe thanks to Disney and Hollywood, as a Greek hero, the son of Zeus and Alkmene. He was an illegitimate child because Zeus’ official wife was the goddess Hera; Alkmene was just a mortal woman. Because of this, Hera hated Hercules and bothered him everywhere and in every way she could.
- Catalog: RIC 639; BMC 717
- Weight: 24.79 g
Head of Commodus (177-192) as Hercules with lion’s kin.
Hercules Marries Megara
After a turbulent youth, Hercules went to Thebes. There he married King Creon’s daughter, Megara. He had several children with her and was happy. Unfortunately, Hera’s resentment was merciless and limitless. She made Hercules mad and in this madness Hercules killed his own children.
His madness was cured by Antikyreus with the magical plant hellebore. Now we know, and probably also then, that this plant is toxic. When Hercules was cured he realized what he had done and fled desperately to the Oracle of Delphi. He wanted help there to restore his honor, but he didn’t know that the oracle was guided by Hera herself!
He was directed by the oracle to serve King Eurystheus for 10 years. Eurystheus gave Hercules 10 “impossible” labors but after finishing them, Hercules was cheated by Eurystheus when he added two more. This resulted in the famous Twelve Labors of Heracles.
- Catalog: GRP0090c
- Weight: 10.05 g
- Diameter: 27.00 mm
- References: Bellinger 335, SNG Cop – Very Rare.
Troas, Alexandria Mint 222-235 AD.
Obverse: IM AVR S(retrograde)ELE ANDR VC Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right. Reverse: COL ALE TROA Drunken Herakles standing right, being supported by three satyrs.
A highly intriguing and rare reverse type! Exceptional about EF detail and well-struck!
- Weight: 16,23 g
Celtic, Danube Region, Imitative of Thasos, Silver Tetradrachm, 1st Century B.C. Wreathed head of Dionysos right, style devolved. Herakles standing facing, head left, holding club and lion skin.
Hercules on Coins
On coins Hercules is depicted in several ways. Most of the time he is depicted in a way that refers to one or more of the twelve labors. Famous are the coins with Hercules from Commodus and Postumus. These Roman emperors had a special connection with the hero. But as mentioned earlier you find him on coins throughout the whole of antiquity.
Hercules was a role model for many people in antiquity but also a prototype for modern superheros. People loved the stories about him and they were remembered by these coins. The theme became so popular in antiquity that it survived the Middle Ages and remained popular into the modern age. You can also find him frequently on medals. In the next blog I will go further on the coins of Postumus and his connection to Hercules.
- Catalog: RC0273f
- Weight: 3.20 g
- Diameter: 22.00 mm
Postumus AR Antoninianus. Cologne Mint 260-269 AD. Obverse: POSTVMVS AVG Radiate bust left, holding club over right shoulder, lion’s head on left shoulder, strap across bare chest. Reverse: PAX AVG Pax standing left, holding branch and scepter. RIC: 319 Very Rare. Size: 22mm, 3.20g.
About EF overall. This is a very rare and highly intriguing bust style with Postumus portrayed as Hercules. Pleasantly toned with good silver content!
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