Contorniates, late 4th-early 5h century. Contorniate (Bronze, 38 mm, 20.58 g, 1 h). ⲰMH-POC Bare-headed and draped bust of Homer to right; before, incuse palm frond (engraved). Rev. Male figure, wearing tunic and chlamys, on the right and looking back, leading bridled and saddled horse to right. Alföldi 89 and pl. 29.9-30.1-6 (same dies). Very rare and of great interest. An unusually attractive example with a beautiful Roman style portrait of Homer. Light doubling, otherwise, very fine.
This wonderful late Roman style portrait of Homer differs from all earlier recorded images of the most famous poet of antiquity and is thus very likely a new creation by the Roman artist. Homer is rendered bare-headed, with stylish short hair, a carefully trimmed pointed beard, and draped in an elegant himation. As such, the image is not at all reminiscent of classical images of philosophers and poets and is instead perhaps influenced by early Christian depictions of saints (Alföldi pp. 97-98). However, it is worth pointing out that the contorniates originated from the senatorial elite in Rome and thus often feature conservative and pagan motives. Homer, as the embodiment of classical Graeco-Roman education and culture, perfectly fits such an agenda.
The reverse, on the other hand, is unconnected to the obverse and shows a male figure leading a bridled and saddled horse to the right. Alföldi interpreted this scene as showing a countryside idyll rather than a charioteer with his leader horse, but the rendering of both human and animal is very similar to other contorniates showing figures leading unsaddled horses (Alföldi Rs.Nr. 193-194), and thus a connection to the ubiquitous chariot races seems plausible despite the saddle.