Syncretizing Egyptian and Greek Mythology
JUDAEA, Sebaste. Aquilia Severa.
|Sale: CNG 82, Lot: 888. Estimate $2000.
Closing Date: Wednesday, 16 September 2009.
Sold For $3200. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
Augusta, AD 220-221 & 221-222. Æ 21mm (5.47 g, 7h). Draped bust right / Sphinx standing left, head right, forepaw on wheel; above, radiate and draped bust of Shamash left. Cf. Meshorer, City-Coins
117 (Caracalla); SNG ANS -; Rosenberger 38; BMC 19; CNG 63, lot 857. VF, dark green patina with dusty earthen overtones. Extremely rare.
The sphinx, a zoomorphic figure in Ancient Egyptian mythology, was commonly represented by a recumbent lion with a human head and associated with the solar deity Sekhmet. Adapted by the Greeks, the mythological concept of the sphinx was modified and was believed to be the offspring of the monster Echidna (half nymph and half snake) and Orthos (the Hound of Geryon). The body of a lion was retained, but the Greek sphinx specifically possessed feminine features, as well as wings, and became associated with destruction and misfortune.
The numismatic representations of the sphinx were adopted from this Greek interpretation, as the presence of wings was a common feature. The mythology, however, can still be seen to be closer to its original Egyptian concept, such as in this example. The wheel on which the sphinx rests its forepaw may in fact represent the solar disk—a symbol closely associated with Sekhmet and, in the beliefs contemporary to the region around Sebaste, Shamash and Ba’al, Mesopotamian and Levantine solar deities, respectively. The presence of the radiate bust above the sphinx furthers this connection with the sun.