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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Hierapolitan Cult Statues of Atargatis and Haddad
As Described by Lucian of Samosata

CNG 111, Lot: 507. Estimate $2000.
Sold for $1300. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

CYRRHESTICA, Hierapolis. Caracalla. AD 198-217. AR Tetradrachm (26mm, 11.74 g, 12h). Struck AD 215-217. Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / Cult figures of Haddad, seated on bulls, and Atargatis, seated on lions, between which is a semeion surmounted by a pigeon; all supported by eagle standing facing, head right, with wings spread; between eagle’s legs, lion advancing right. Prieur 925; Bellinger p. 42, fig. 2. Fine, toned, porosity. Extremely rare and important type, only four known to Prieur, and two in CoinArchives.

Lucian of Samosata describes in detail the Hierapolitan cult images of Haddad and Atargatis (whom he refers to as Zeus and Hera) in his De Dea Syria (31-33), a “guidebook” of sorts to the deities’ temple in Hierapolis and the cult practices taking place there. His description of the statues of Atargatis, Haddad, and the mysterious “symbol” comports wonderfully with the figures as they appear on this type:

The great temple is open to all; the sacred shrine to the priests alone and not to all of these, but only to those who are deemed nearest to the gods and who have the charge of the entire administration of the sacred rites. In this shrine are placed the statues, one of which is Hera, the other Zeus, though they call him by another name. Both of these are golden, both are sitting; Hera is supported by lions, Zeus is sitting on bulls...between the two there stands another image of gold, no part of it resembling the others. This possesses no special form of its own, but recalls the characteristics of other gods. The Assyrians themselves speak of it as a symbol (Greek σημεῖον), but they have assigned it no definite name. They have nothing to tell us about its origin, nor its form: some refer to it as Dionysus; others to Deukalion; others to Semiramis; for its summit is crowned by a golden pigeon, and this is why they allege it is the effigy of Semiramis.