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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Hercules’ Tenth Labor - The Cattle of Geryon

Sale: CNG 76, Lot: 999. Estimate $500. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 12 September 2007. 
Sold For $550. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (17.33 g, 12h). Dated RY 10 (AD 146/7). Laureate head right / Hercules standing left, holding club, capturing Cattle of Geryon; on ground, Eurytion lying left; date in legend. Köln 1542; Voegtli 6c and 12o; Emmett 1542. Near VF, red-brown patina with green overtones, light overall roughness, flan chipped in antiquity. Very rare.

From the James E. Cain Collection.

Hercules, made temporarily insane by the goddess Hera, murdered his wife and children. Once recovered, and distressed by his actions, Hercules consulted the Delphic Oracle to find a means of expiating his sin. As a punishment, Apollo replied that the hero would have to serve his cousin Eurystheus, the king Tiryns, a man whom Hercules despised, for a period of twelve years. Because Eurystheus also hated Hercules, he devised a series of ten feats of such difficulty that they would be either insurmountable, or Hercules would die in the attempt. Because Hercules received assistance in completing two of the tasks, Eurystheus added two more. Each labor became more fantastic, and eventually Hercules was compelled to break the bonds of the supernatural in order to complete his task. Once he accomplished the Labors, Hercules was absolved of his guilt, and preceded to perform many other heroic feats.

Hercules’ Tenth Labor required him to travel to Erytheia to capture the Cattle of Geryon. En route, while crossing the Libyan Desert, he became so frustrated at the heat that he shot an arrow at Helios. Admiring the hero’s courage, Helios gave the golden cup he used to sail nightly across the Ocean from west to east each night, to Hercules to help him reach Erytheia. Upon arriving there, Hercules was confronted by the two-headed watchdog, Orthrus, and the herdsman Eurytion, each of whom he killed with his club. Hearing what was happening, Geryon, armed with three shields, three spears, and wearing three helmets, pursued Hercules to the River Anthemus. Once there, Hercules shot Geryon dead with an arrow he had poisoned with the blood of the Lernaean Hydra. To annoy Hercules as he drove the cattle back to Eurystheus, Hera sent a gadfly to scatter the herd by biting them. After a year’s labor, Hercules recovered the herd, but was further hindered by a flood, also caused by the goddess. Hercules eventually returned to Tiryns, and Eurystheus sacrificed the cattle to Hera.