CONTORNIATE IN THE NAME OF TRAJAN – ISSUE WITH MYTHIC MONSTER SCYLLA FROM HOMER’S ODYSSEY – CHOICE VF STAR NGC GRADED ROMAN IMPERIAL COIN (Inv. 17775)
ROMAN EMPIRE. CONTORNIATE IN THE NAME OF TRAJAN, MID 4th CENTURY- EARLY 5th CENTURY AD.
Bronze contorniate medallion, 34.56 g, 39 mm.
Obv. DIVO NERVA-E TRAIANO, laureate head of Trajan right, wearing paludamentum on far shoulder. Rev. Scylla, at right, extending her right arm to grab the head of the helmsman who bends forward, behind him a standing figure who seems terrified and recoils in terror, in the background Ulysses (Odysseus), wearing conical cap, holding shield and raised spear; in foreground, two sailors with raised hands float in the water, while at right one of Scylla’s wolf headed appendage approaches to devour him; in far right background Scylla’s two fish tails raised up high, around a central pine tree.
Alföldi, Kontorniat-Medaillions, 360.
NGC graded CHOICE VF STAR, Strike 5/5, Surface 1/5, “plugged”. The contorniate is rich in detail, illustrating one of the central stories of Homer’s Odyssey, the encounter with the monster Scylla. The design may well be based on the monumental sculptural group at Tiberius’ imperial residence in Sperlonga.
“…but when I had put on my glorious armour and grasped in my hand two long spears, I went to the fore-deck of the ship,  whence I deemed that Scylla of the rock would first be seen, who was to bring ruin upon my comrades. But nowhere could I descry her, and my eyes grew weary as I gazed everywhere toward the misty rock… So we looked toward her and feared destruction;  but meanwhile Scylla seized from out the hollow ship six of my comrades who were the best in strength and in might. Turning my eyes to the swift ship and to the company of my men,1 even then I noted above me their feet and hands as they were raised aloft. To me they cried aloud, calling upon me  by name for that last time in anguish of heart … Then at her doors she devoured them shrieking and stretching out their hands toward me in their awful death-struggle. Most piteous did mine eyes behold that thing of all that I bore while I explored the paths of the sea.” (Homer, Odyssey, XII.229 ff, A.T. Murray translation, 1919).
Published: Vilmar Fixed Price List IV, no. 127.