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Coin Detail
Click here to see enlarged image.
ID:     82000823
Type:     Roman Provincial
Region:     THRACE
City:     Anchialus
Issuer:     Gordian III
Date Ruled:     AD 238-244
Metal:     Bronze
Denomination:     AE 36 Medallion
Struck / Cast:     struck
Date Struck:     AD 238-244
Diameter:     36 mm
Weight:     29.54 g
Die Axis:     2 h
Reverse die reference:     AMNG II 623
Obverse Legend:     AVT K M ANT ΓΟΡΔIANOC AVΓ
Obverse Description:     Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right
Reverse Legend:     OVΛΠIANΩN(ΩN lig) AΓXIAΛΕΩ/N
Reverse Description:     Cybele, veiled and wearing mural crown, enthroned left, holding phiale, and resting arm on tympanon; below throne, lion seated left; to left, Attis, wearing Phrygian cap, standing facing, head right, holding pedum and raising hand; pine tree in background
Primary Reference:     AMNG II 623 (same rev. die as illustration)
Reference2:     Mouchmov 2927 (same dies as illustration)
Reference3:     Varbanov 633 (same dies as illustration)
Photograph Credit:     Classical Numismatic Group
Grade:     Good VF, earthen and green patina
Notes:     Sale: CNG 82, Lot: 823 Very rare. Deriving from the Phrygian goddess Matar Kubileya, or “Mountain-Mother”, Cybele was a manifestation of the Great Mother, an ancient deity who embodied the Earth’s fertility, the rugged mountains and deep recesses, and wild animals. Her association with untamed and unrestrained nature is similar to Dionysos, and Cybele is often depicted with a lion (or biga drawn by lions), and a tympanon, or drum, used to drive her male devotees into a state of ecstasy, resulting in self castration. To varying degrees, the attributes of Cybele were adopted by the Greeks and Romans in their own fertility goddesses. Beginning in the late sixth century BC, however, the Greeks adopted the worship of Cybele herself and in 210 BC, during the height of the Second Punic War (218-201 BC), the cult was introduced to the Romans when an archaic xoanon of the goddess was brought to the capital from Pessinos in Phrygia where Cybele was venerated along with the hermaphroditic deity, Agdistis, as well as Attis. While the annual Roman festival held in honor of Cybele each April, the Ludi Megalenses, represented a greatly sanitized veneration of the goddess, the presence of the other two associated deities reveals a somewhat more ancient, complex, and violent myth.According to Pausanias (7.17.5), Attis was the son of Nana, the daughter of the local river-god, Sangarios. To conceive the child, Nana impregnated herself with the fruit of an almond-tree that had grown out of the severed male genitals of Agdistis, a local hermaphroditic deity. After the baby’s birth, she abandoned it, and it was reared by a he-goat. When Attis grew to maturity, he attracted the attention of the local king, who wished to betroth his daughter to the boy. It was either the goddess Agdistis, now female only, or Cybele, who at this point became infatuated with Attis; in both versions, each goddess appeared in her transcendent power at the moment that the marriage-song was being sung (Arnobius, Adversus Gentes, 9.5.4). Attis went mad and died by castrating himself, a practice which the male worshippers of Cybele, known as korybantes or galli, would continue to practice. In repentance for causing the death of Attis, the goddess ensured that the boy’s body would remain incorruptable and he was buried at the foot of a Phrygian mountain, which came to be known as Agdistis.A Lydian version of this myth, derived from that of Phrygia and also noted by Pausanias, relates that when Attis introduced the cult of the Mother Goddess, known now as Cybele, to the Lydians, Zeus, in a jealous rage, sent a boar to plague the land. While hunting it, Attis was gored by the boar and died. This version may have been created later to provide an etiology for the refusal of the Gauls in that region to eat pork.