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Research Coins: Printed Auction


Five Muses
Hercules Musagetes, Conductor of the Muses

Triton XXII, Lot: 879. Estimate $2000.
Sold for $3250. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Q. Pomponius Musa. 56 BC. AR Denarius (17mm, 4.07 g, 12h). Rome mint. Diademed head of Apollo right, wearing hair in ringlets; Q • POMPON[I] downward to left, MVSA upward to right / Hercules Musagetes, Conductor of the Muses, standing right, wearing lion skin and playing lyre; club to right; HERCVLES downward to right, MVSARVM downward to left. Crawford 410/1; Sydenham 810; Pomponia 8; BMCRR Rome 3602-4; RBW –. Superb EF, lustrous.

From the Alan J. Harlan Collection. Ex Numismatica Ars Classica 46 (2 April 2008), lot 388.

Although the moneyer Q. Pomponius Musa is unknown to history, his choice of Hercules Musagetes and the nine Muses as coin types is remarkable and clearly connected to his cognomen.

The reverses of this series – Hercules playing the lyre and the Muses, can be none other than the celebrated statue group by an unknown Greek artist, taken from Ambracia and placed in the Aedes Herculis Musarum, which was erected by M. Fulvius Nobilior in 187 BC after the capture of Ambracia in 189 BC (Plin. NH xxxv.66; Ov. Fast. vi.812). By the second century BC, Rome had overrun most of Greece and was captivated by Hellenic art and culture, not the least of which was its sculpture. Fulvius is said to have taken the statues to Rome because he learned in Greece that Hercules was a musagetes (leader of the Muses). Remains of this temple have been found in the area of the Circus Flaminius close to the southwest part of the circus itself, and northwest of the porticus Octaviae. An inscription found nearby, ‘M. Fulvius M. f. Ser. n. Nobilior cos. Ambracia cepit’ may have been on the pedestal of one of the statues. The official name of the temple was Herculis Musarum Aedes, which Servius and Plutarch called Herculis et Musarum Aedes.