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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Hermes Perpheraios

CNG 88, Lot: 2171. Estimate $300.
Sold for $500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Lead commercial weight. Thracian (Ainos), 2nd-1st centuries BC. Square, uniface commerical weight with suspension loop. Front face containing, in raised design, ithyphallic cult image of Hermes Perpheraios set on facing throne above π. Dimensions (exclusive of suspension loop and raised design): 4.4x4.4x0.8cm; weight: 128.07g. Intact with attractive tan-brown sufaces.

According to myth, the famous cult image of Hermes Perpheraios was carved by Epeios, the maker of the Trojan Horse. Lost at sea, the statue was caught by local fishermen of Ainos. Quite displeased with their catch, they attempted to cut it up for firewood but could not split it. They then tried to burn the image as a whole, but the flames would not catch. Finally, the frustrated fishermen threw the statue back to sea. It was only when it was caught in their nets a second time that the sacredness of the object was realized.

The cult image makes its first appearance on the coinage of Ainos around the mid 5th century (May group XV) as a subsidiary symbol. It stands as the principal reverse type for 4th century drachms and a unique gold piece of uncertain date (May B AV = BMC 1).

The weight of 128g would put the piece around five ounces, with the π presumably standing for penta.