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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton VIII, Lot: 776. Estimate $3000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 10 January 2005. 
Sold For $5250. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

PHRYGIA, Synnada. Gallienus. 253-268 AD. Æ 32mm (17.81 gm, 6h). AVT' KAI' P' LIK GALLHNOC, C EB across field, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind / CUN NA DE WN, venatio scene in the amphitheatre: across the center, lion chasing stag left, below, bestiarius attacking boar with spear; above, Orpheus attacked by a bear(?). SNG von Aulock 3997 (same dies); BMC Phrygia 66 = Casson & Price, Studies Trell , pg. 70, fig. 1 (same dies); SNG Lewis 1560 (same dies); J. Nolle, "Kaiserliche Privilegien für Gladiatorenmunera und Tierhetzen: Unbekannte und ungedeutete Zeugnisse auf städtischen Münzen des griechischen Ostens," JNG 42/43 (1992/1993), pg. 51, 2b = Sternberg XI (20 November 1981), lot 322 (same dies); E.S.G. Robinson, "Coins from Lycia and Pamphylia," JHS 34 (1914), pg. 37, 24 (not plated). Near EF, black patina. Extremely rare, one of approximately five known. ($3000)

Synnada received extraordinarily abundant donations for the organization of its gladiatorial games and hunts of wild beasts, and therefore sometimes depicts gladiatorial munera on its coinage. The larger and more impressive these spectator events, the more they met with imperial approval, which, of course, improved the reputation of the city.

The Oxford Classical Dictionary (third edition) in its entry for venationes mentions in passing gladitorial combats re-enacting the killing of Orpheus by a bear; there seems to be no other evidence for this particular variant of the Orpheus myth, except the event depicted on this coin.