The charlatan Alexander of Abonuteichus
Lot 947
PAPHLAGONIA. Ionopolis (as Abonuteichus). Antoninus Pius, 138-161. Tetrassarion (Orichalcum, 31 mm, 16.17 g, 1 h). ΑYΤ ΚΑΙϹΑΡ ΑΝΤΩΝΕΙΝΟϹ Bare head of Augustus to right. Rev. ΓΛYΚΩΝ ΑΒΩΝΟΤΕΙΧΕΙΤΩΝ Coiled serpent with long hair (Glykon) to right. RG 8. RPC IV.1 online 4881. Very rare and of great historical interest. Somewhat rough, otherwise, very fine.


The reverse of this very interesting issue shows Glykon, a long-haired serpent around which Alexander of Abonoteichus created a new cult in the mid 2nd century. His contemporary Lucian described Alexander as an utter charlatan who deceived his followers by outfitting a serpent with a puppet head and a blond wig, which he then propagated as a reincarnation of Asklepios named Glykon. Alexander established a widely popular oracle in his home town of Abonoteichus around the charade, where he charged 2 drachms and two obols for every consultation, thereby earning a fortune. In 166, Alexander reportedly sent Marcus Aurelius an oracle revealing that the drowning of two living lions in the Danube would lead to a decisive victory in the war against the Marcomanni. When the emperor suffered a defeat, the false prophet resorted to the very same excuse the oracle in Delphi had given when she predicted to Kroisos that his attack on the Persians would lead to the destruction of a mighty kingdom. Namely, that he had not said which side would win. Nevertheless, the worship of Glykon enjoyed great popularity well into the 3rd century and became, as these very rare coins from Abonoteichus show, a source of civic pride for Alexander's home town.
Starting price:
100 CHF
Hammer price:
1000 CHF
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Closing time: 12-Dec-20, 20:53:00 CET
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