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Research Coins: Feature Auction


An Extremely Rare Representation of Hapi
The Egyptian God of the Annual Flooding of the Nile

CNG 97, Lot: 568. Estimate $5000.
Sold for $6500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Trajan. AD 98-117. Æ Drachm (34mm, 22.38 g, 12h). Dated RY 13 (AD 109/110). Laureate bust right, with aegis / Hapi seated slightly left on rocks, draped from the waist down, his right hand raised above his head (indicating that he is asleep), left arm at his side; to right, an inclined Nilometer marked with a graduated scale; above the Nilometer, a hawk (Horus) standing left on a wreathed column or table; to left, a neck amphora on a table (or tripod), [L] IΓ (date) between the table’s legs. Köln –; Dattari (Savio) 960 (this coin) = K&G 27.253 = Emmett 554; cf. E. Christiansen, The Roman Coins of Alexandria, Vol. I, p. 162, where he cites Mionnet VI nos. 627 and 634, and an example in the Thorvaldsen’s Museum collection in Copenhagen; Mionnet VI 634 is probably the same type as this coin, but 627 is not. Fine, attractive even brown patina with touches of green, some very minor porosity. Extremely rare, only three specimens traced including this coin.

Ex Künker Auction 226 (11 March 2013), lot 822; Dattari Collection, 960.

One of the most fascinating reverse types on an Alexandrian drachm that this cataloguer has ever seen. The reverse depicts a lesser-known god, in the Greco-Roman world, of the Nile – Hapi. Hapi was the god of the annual flooding of the Nile in ancient Egyptian religion. The flood deposited rich silt on the river's banks, allowing the Egyptians to grow their crops each year. Hapi is typically depicted as a man with a large belly wearing a loincloth, and having female-like breasts.

“The annual flooding of the Nile occasionally was said to be the Arrival of Hapi. Since this flooding provided fertile soil in an area that was otherwise desert, Hapi, as its patron, symbolized fertility. Due to his fertile nature, he was sometimes considered the ‘father of the gods,’ and was considered to be a caring father who helped to maintain the balance of the cosmos, the world or universe regarded as an orderly, harmonious system. He was thought to live within a cavern at the supposed source of the Nile near Aswan. The cult of Hapi was mainly located at the First Cataract named Elephantine. His priests were involved in rituals to ensure the steady levels of flow required from the annual flood. At Elephantine, the official Nilometer, a measuring device, was carefully monitored to predict the level of the flood, and his priests must have been intimately concerned with its monitoring.” [Source: Wikipedia]

The reverse of this extremely rare coin depicts perfectly the mythological role of Hapi and his importance to the Nile and the Egyptian people.