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  Earring » Greek » ID11614  
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  Metal Type:  14K Gold
  Diameter:  26mm
  $ 1084


Medusa the Gorgon

Denomination:  Silver AR Hemi Drachma


Date: c. 450-400 BCE

Description: Anchor and crayfish / Medusa the Gorgon with hair of snakes.

These coins were minted in Apollonia Pontica, an ancient Greek city on the shores of the Black Sea. Numismatists most often refer to the snaky figure that appears on these coins using the words Gorgon (or the Gorgon), Gorgoneion, or Gorgo, but they sometimes use the name Medusa (the Greek spelling is Medousa), who was one of the three mythological Gorgon sisters, the others being Stheno and Euryale.

The word Gorgoneion is used to mean the disembodied head or mask of the Gorgon, which was placed on shields, breastplates, walls, and so on, as Athena in the mythology placed Medusa's disembodied head on her aegis. Athena wasn't the only one in mythology and history to carry or display an image of Medusa as a protective totem against enemies and evil. Medusa may have been mythological, but her presence in the classical world was very real.
Medusa was the only mortal among the three Gorgon sisters. Daughter of the sea gods Phorcys and Ceto, she was once a beautiful maiden but was turned into a snake-haired monster by Athena for sleeping with (or being ravaged by) Poseidon in Athena's temple. Men who looked at Medusa turned to stone. The hero Perseus later killed Medusa at her home on an island off Libya by cutting off her head with a harpa (sickle), a scene depicted on some coins, finding her by looking at her reflection in a shield given to him by Athena to avoid being turned to stone himself. From Medusa's gaping neck sprang forth the winged horse Pegasus and the giant Chrysaor, her children by Poseidon. Perseus, chased by Medusa's hissing sisters, Stheno and Euryale, escaped with Medusa's disembodied head, giving it to Athena, who placed it in the center of her aegis. The dead head had the same power of turning to stone those who looked at it.

Medusa's frightening appearance on coins served a propaganda purpose, as did many coin designs, in this case announcing to enemies and would-be enemies, "Don't mess with us." Warfare was endemic in the classical world, a way of life, and death, as it has been throughout much of history Medusa's frightening appearance on coins served a propaganda purpose, as did many coin designs, in this case announcing a warning to enemies.

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