88 out of 410 days: Seeing Too Much

Reverse Image

This reverse type has been the victim of too much speculation.  Crawford in RRC wants the type to be visual representation of the moneyer’s name.  The other type made at the same time by the same moneyer seems to pun on the constellation the Triones (a.k.a. the seven stars of the Plough a.k.a. the Big Dipper a.k.a. the Great Bear) and the moneyer’s cognomen:

To make a pun out of the winged boy on a dolphin Crawford had to speculate that it might represent Melicertes (a.k.a. Palaemon) and thus by extension his mother Leucothea whose name sounds like Lucretius.  This has then been spun into a legendary genealogy connecting the family to this goddess and tying the moneyer to Odysseus via a connection with Antium. [Hence how I found this in my notes today and thought I’d write it up as it’s unlikely to ever really make it into the book.]

The problem is that is that Melicertes is never represented with wings.  So says the LIMC (not just the website, I promise I checked the books as well on this).   That is just a regular little cupid (eros) on a dolphin.  A perfectly normal, completely common representation on gems, lamps, and dozens of other decorative art forms. One that appears on many coins as well:



And even on Roman coins:



The main problem with the tentative suggestion of Melicertes is not the speculative reconstructions above, but that by saying “winged boy” in the catalog entries of every major database it never returns in searches for “eros and dolphin”  or “cupid and dolphin” thus virtually erasing an important link in the history of the iconography.

Of course, Melicertes can be represented riding a dophin.  And there are lots of boys on dolphins, most famously at Tarentum.  But the wings rather make a difference!

As a fun aside:



Yep that’s George Washington!